“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” thoughts from a senior perspective

I am so happy that “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” exists! This film portrays older-age sexual yearning, curiosity, shame, and nervousness accurately and beautifully. The film stars Emma Thompson, age 62, as a widow/retired religious education teacher who has never had an orgasm, and Daryl McCormack, age 29,  as the sex worker she hires for a bucket list of missed sexual opportunities.

I’m 78, and I never expected to see a film with such tender authenticity about a senior woman wanting to explore her sexual pleasure with a gentle, respectful, vulnerable, and gorgeous male sex worker.

 

Is she ageist because she wants a young man?

I read objections from several of you on social media who saw this as ageist. I don’t see it that way. She had sex with only one man in her life: her husband, whose idea of sex was get on, get in, get off, go to sleep. She wants transactional sex with a man who prioritizes her pleasure, who will serve her without his own agenda, and whose youthful appearance will turn her on.

In my view, this “pilot light lover” (to adopt Gail Sheehy’s phrase) is just the beginning of her sexual awakening. I picture her after the film ends, going forward with confidence to meet men of her age who, she will discover, delight in giving pleasure to their partner.

 

Let’s address what many people are asking: did Emma Thompson need to bare it all to make the point that she finally accepts her body?

I love that she does this. It’s startling to see her naked, staring in the mirror, no longer confined by a pencil skirt or draped in a negligee. She is unapologetically adorned with her natural wrinkles and loose skin. I loved that. I found her beautiful.

No, she didn’t have to do it, but how it amplifies the message of overcoming shame and reclaiming her body! I applaud her and director Sophie Hyde for this decision. (Personally, I would have appreciated seeing more of Leo, too, just saying.)

I know I’ll have more to say about this film, but I’ll stop here to invite your comments. Let’s keep this discussion going.

Learn more:

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” is available only on Hulu. Subscribe for a month for less than the cost of a movie ticket.

I look forward to reading your comments.

 

20 Comments

  1. Mike on June 26, 2022 at 4:05 am

    I loved the movie and wish the view of sex workers would become more normalized. I feel bad for people who go through life not enjoying sex because they are misinformed, unable to get correct information, or to scared to speak up. My goal is to experience a prostate orgasm. Even with much practice I still haven’t succeeded. It would be wonderful to be able to be taught by a professional the tips and tricks of how to achieve one on my body, having it done to me.

  2. Susan on June 25, 2022 at 7:57 am

    I have just watched this movie and found it very slow and whilst unusual in its theme it was quite boring at times.

    • Mac Marshall on June 25, 2022 at 7:16 pm

      The “slowness” that you found “boring” is an accurate reflection of human reality in the circumstances that led Nancy to link up with a sex worker. Her tentativeness, mixed feelings, and approach-avoidance means that the “action” unfolds slowly, and that is precisely the point. Had Leo arrived and engaged in a “slam, bam, thank you ma’am,” scenario, the film would’ve been a complete bust IMHO.

  3. Brenda Lange on June 24, 2022 at 6:53 pm

    I LOVED this film! Thank you for recommending it, Joan, and for moderating this conversation.

    For those who think the movie is only about sex, sex workers, ageism, etc., I would say, please watch it again, and really listen to the dialog, watch their body language and expressions. Really listen and watch closely.

    I think you will see that the film is really about Nancy’s growth as a human (and Leo’s too!). She learns about who she is holistically by focusing on learning about her sexuality. She could not have found a better partner in this journey than Leo, who was thoughtful, compassionate and wise…giving, loving and vulnerable. (Yes, I would love a Leo of any age!)

    Nancy’s transformation over the few weeks of their relationship as she explores and learns about herself is wonderful to watch, and her growth is extraordinary. (Just watch her face and especially her eyes in the final scene as she observes and absorbs and ACCEPTS her WHOLE self.)

    I would love to see a sequel and where she goes next!

  4. Bill Noble on June 23, 2022 at 6:56 pm

    So much to say about this fine work. Emma Thompson has always been a personal icon – brilliant, funny, risk-taking, often profound. I suspect the film comes partly from a deeply sex-positive activist part of her. And yes, her bravery in nakedness.

    Sex work. The only other film I can think of that treated sex work with such luminous honesty is Helen Hunt’s The Sessions. Thank you for that.

    “Ageism.” One of our great ills currently, left and right, is what I’d love to call ‘labelism,’ smacking a label on – half a dozen I could think of, just from the left – so we can anathematize or pretend to higher understanding. Nowhere is it more poisonous that in sex: bias and reaction conceived as wisdom.

    What would I have done differently? Hmmm. Lots of female nudity, but just one half-second glimpse of what might or might not been a penis. The Code. I’d love a version of this film where actual sex was visible with the same gentle honesty the film used to tell its culturally censored story. What else? I loved the very slow pace of exploration. It verged at times on boring, but it was utterly authentic. And again, I’d loved to have the culmination less compressed, less of a glance at the changes she was seeking, and more chance for us to immerse in them.

    Great great thanks for their being just enough cultural space for this immensely valuable piece of storytelling to find its sunlight. Thank you, Emma.

    • Mac Marshall on June 23, 2022 at 11:21 pm

      What a rich and thoughtful comment, Bill. Thank you! I’ll hope to track down and view a copy of Helen Hunt’s “The Sessions,” as it’s a film I’ve not yet seen.

      For a version of the film under discussion here where, in your words, “actual sex is visible with gentle honesty,” the best thing out there right now is Joan Price and jessica drake’s award-winning, “Guide to Wicked Sex: Senior Sex.” See https://joanprice.com/wicked-sex for how to purchase a copy.

      • Michelle Renee on June 24, 2022 at 10:04 am

        The Sessions is great but not a great representation of surrogate partner therapy. But, it’s still a good movie. (We see clients for way more than 6 sessions)

  5. Sally on June 23, 2022 at 6:16 pm

    At age 65 , ten years after my ex husband lost millions and abandoned our family for Ghana ( to try to fill his pockets , I finally decided I was ready to indulge in dating. My ex had been the love of my life ; thus this delayed response. I met a ‘cowboy’ on a dating site, and whle I felt all the vulnerabilities , insecurities , as experienced by ‘ Nancy ‘ , I decided to go all in. I wanted to cover my body in the morning light , but he would not participate in my fear. He showed me , over a period of months., the beauty and art id my body , and though we are no longer Connected , I am reawakened sexually ans sensually – a gift !

  6. Rebeccca on June 23, 2022 at 7:32 am

    Can’t even find words to describe how much I loved this movie–every single part of it. I was looking forward to it, but didn’t anticipate how much I would cry! Emma Thompson showed all of the complexities of being an older woman and trying to reconcile this aging body with so many things: the idea of being desirable and sexual looking the way aging bodies do; wishing we had appreciated our young, firm bodies when we had them; wishing we had acted more on behalf of our own sexual interests and lusts ; wishing we had owned our pleasure more; and finally coming to the conclusion (and wishing you had come to it years and years ago) that pleasure is something we all deserve and get to have, no matter what. I love Mac’s suggestion above to make this mandatory viewing in all senior care facilities. I would go even further and say it should be mandatory viewing in high school sex-ed classes! I’m 56 and watched it with my 20 and 16 year old daughters, and they cried along with me, felt empowered by the movie, and we had long discussions about how women’s pleasure is not often addressed as in media talk and portrayal of sex (my girls feel this is still a HUGE problem for their generation).

  7. Jeff Johannigman on June 23, 2022 at 6:46 am

    While we all know what an amazing actress Emma is, I think that Daryl also gave a powerful performance. His character showed incredible depths of caring, support, tenderness, and at times, very personal vulnerability. He was exactly the kind of sexual “therapist” that Emma’s character needed.

    • Rebecca on June 23, 2022 at 11:22 am

      Agree, Jeff! He was AMAZING, and every woman I’ve talked to so far has said, “Where can I find a sex worker like Leo?” I love Leo for many reasons, including all the ones you mention–I especially loved the vulnerability of him, and the way he kind of nervously trys postions out while she is in the bathroom…

    • Mac Marshall on June 23, 2022 at 11:08 pm

      I completely agree, Jeff. To my mind, Daryl/Leo beautifully illustrates who a “Real Man” is when it comes to sex: in your words, he’s caring, supportive, tender, and vulnerable.

  8. Mac Marshall on June 22, 2022 at 7:21 am

    Somewhat lost in the focus on Emma Thompson’s very beautiful nakedness, and Daryl McCormack’s youthful gorgeousness, are several other important messages. The film highlights and demonstrates consent, boundaries, communication, a focus on giving and receiving pleasure, and the signal importance of laughter and playfulness in sexual encounters. Even though the film is only available on Hulu, I hope it gains a wide audience. And I wish that many senior care facilities and community senior centers will make it available to their “customers.” Bravo Sophie Hyde!

  9. LSROSENBERG@aol.com on June 22, 2022 at 6:26 am

    I absolutely loved the premise of the show, that she hired a sex worker, and I loved both of their performances. I thought it was courageous on everyone’s part to do the scene where she is nude. That said, I completely understand her reticence, but I thought it lasted too long. It began to wear on me and I found it tedious. Kudos for everyone to have the courage to make this film.

    • Mavis Park on June 22, 2022 at 11:12 am

      I loved this movie and found it intensely moving.
      I am also over 70 like some reviewers and feel as though one’s sexual life is not over and appreciated a film showing that. I also like my body better after seeing that it looks quite similar to Emma’s. Thank you Emma

  10. Michelle Renee on June 22, 2022 at 5:20 am

    That moment at the end with her in the mirror, instant tears of joy. As a surrogate partner, the mirror work they did together was familiar, but that moment at the end made me so happy. To see an older woman naked on film… I was rejoicing! And to have her give herself her first orgasm, solo… priceless!!! Yay! Betty Dodson would be proud.

  11. Marian Meade on June 22, 2022 at 4:23 am

    Excellent commentary Joan! Baring it all- yes I so appreciate that she did. So powerful! It is rare to see a ‘regular’ woman’s body of any age. I think that her decision to do so will go a long way to helping women of all ages accept their bodies as they are.

  12. Chad Huckabaa on June 22, 2022 at 2:11 am

    I knew little about this film going in, and I was captivated throughout. All of that fear and trepidation, the gentleness and humor, getting through it, the raw emotions that carried through as things went sideways. They were both fantastic, I think it’s a real shame that it won’t have an opportunity for an Academy Award.

  13. Jonathan Frieman on June 22, 2022 at 12:37 am

    Thank you, Joan!

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