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.
I look forward to reading your comments.
Amazon Prime jolted me recently with two stellar offerings — one series and one film — that feature aging characters who don’t fit any of the stereotypes. Both affected me profoundly, and I recommend them to you:
At 68, Mort (played masterfully by Jeffrey Tambor) comes out as a trans woman who wants to be called Maura. In this sweet, smart, and strongly acted ensemble series, we see the strengths and vulnerabilities of Mort/Maura and a family of ex-wife and three adult children — who make a ton of relationship mistakes of their own.
This 10-episode series resolves many questions and leaves enough unanswered to allow for a second season, which is in the works — hurray!
Yes, there’s lots of sex in Transparent, but (boo) only Maura’s children are having it. Maura is more interested in establishing her identity and being accepted by her family than in having sex with anyone — at least in season 1. Will this change in the second season?
Craig (James Cromwell) is watching Irene (Geneviève Bujold), his wife of 61 years, lose her memory. He loves her fiercely and wants to protect her by building a house that will be easier for her to live in.
Although Craig has been building houses his whole life, he’s no match for the bureaucracy that insists on permits and strict adherence to building codes that are irrelevant to Craig (the plans are in his head; the lumber came from a tree he felled; the knowledge came from his father and a lifetime of craftsmanship and self-sufficiency).
The love and chemistry between Craig and Irene are powerful. The tenderness in their loving looks and caresses will make you applaud or cry or both. And rather than portray this elderly couple as sexless, there’s a sexy undressing scene early in the film that includes, “This never gets old. We always did passion well.”
This film is based on real people and actual events. Don’t miss it.
What films have you watched that portrayed aging and relationships in a non-stereotypical way? I look forward to your recommendations.
I hope you’ll read my discussion with writer David Templeton about the film in the Pacific Sun. Here are excerpts — and click here for the complete article. (Warning: spoiler alert.)
“What bothered me, at first,” Price says, “was that the filmmakers seemed to be making fun of something that is an enormous issue for seniors, something that isn’t really a laughing matter. I couldn’t see what Kay [Streep] saw in Arnold [Jones], and I couldn’t understand how two people in their 60s, in 2012, ended up with this 1950s-style marriage. They sleep in separate rooms, they never talk, she does all the cooking and cleaning even though they both have full-time jobs, they don’t talk about anything except his job and golf, and they never do anything together—and by anything I especially mean…sex.”
…”What was wonderful about the film,” Price says, “once it got to Hope Springs and the therapy sessions, was that it settled down and took its time to flesh out some very real concerns and fears that older people have. At first we think that Arnold is the one who turned away from Kay, but then she admits that it was she who stopped having sex with him. But by then, after she started to miss it, there were so many hurt feelings and misunderstandings between them, that it was just a big mess.”
…”It actually bothered me a little,” says Price, “that Dr. Feld didn’t suggest that they get a medical opinion. If something changes in a man’s sex drive, there is often a medical reason. Men don’t stop wanting sex overnight, even if their wife did turn them down one or two times too often. That might happen gradually, but if it’s sudden, then a man really needs to see a doctor. In this movie, we learn that he’s having erectile problems, and is afraid to put it to the test, so he avoids sex. But erectile problems could be an indication of heart disease, or diabetes, or any number of other treatable diseases. That message was never put into the movie, and it should have been, by the therapist, if no one else.”
…”I wonder,” asks Price, “if, at any point in this couple’s history, there was ever any sex between them that was for her pleasure? The therapist even—and this completely shocked me—asked if she’d ever had orgasms…’vaginal or otherwise.’ Excuse me? Orgasms come from the clitoris. Was this guy trained in the 1940s?
I also encourage you to talk about it with your partner if you have one, with your friends, with anyone who will participate. That’s my mission after all — to talk out loud about senior sex — and this film lubricates the topic, so to speak.
You’d think that a lively movie about elders dating and having sex (or wanting to) would be just the kind of film I’d applaud. I did applaud the idea of Play the Game when I first heard about it — until I actually viewed it. Maybe I’m just too sensitive about senior sex, but I found this film neither funny nor instructive. In fact, I found it cringe-worthy for these reasons:
1. The whole premise of the movie is that widowed Grandpa Joe(Andy Griffith), living in a retirement community, is lonely but doesn’t know how to play dating games, while surrounded by women, one of whom (Doris Roberts) he’d like to date, and another (Liz Sheridan) who wants to seduce him. Grandson David (Paul Campbell) takes the old man under his wing and teaches him to manipulate women.
We’re led to think that Grandpa will end up reversing roles and educating Grandson about how to stop playing games and communicate honestly, respect women, and create meaningful relationships — something Grandson has been unable to do in his own life. But (spoiler alert:) the opposite happens. We learn that the object of Grandson’s affections (Marla Sokoloff) has been manipulating him more than he’s been manipulating her, and has taught her grandmother (Roberts) to do the same. There, I’ve ruined the ending for you and you don’t have to go see it.
The characters all deserve each other.
2. One of the so-called hilarious incidents is Liz Sheridan as an elder seductress crushing Viagra into a glass, adding wine, and giving it to her seductee without telling him what’s in the glass. This is such a horrible, dangerous idea that I couldn’t suspend my reality check long enough to laugh at the predictible results.
“It’s a miracle!” exclaims our re-energized and rising hero. It wouldn’t have been a miracle if he had been on heart medicine — it would have been a death scene. How funny is that? (This scene used to be online, but seems to have disappeared.)
If you must see this (and I don’t recommend it, unless you want to see if you agree with me), please take a teenager with you and plan a long talk afterwards to debunk everything you saw. Otherwise, your teen might see it on his/her own and believe the dating advice aimed at both young folks and seniors.
My verdict: Ick, skip it. Here’s the trailer, but it doesn’t show how bad it is or how insulting to seniors.