Emma Thompson projects her sexual and physical insecurities in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” but the vulnerability that makes it so intriguing is what makes this dramedy, reserved for streaming on Hulu, so emotionally rich. The titular character spends most of the narrative alone in a drab hotel room, and the poignancy that lingers is reclaimed only through the desire to extricate their relationship from the confines of their setting and reconnect to individuals.
During her first meeting with a sex worker, Nancy (not her real name), an anxious and ambivalent woman seeking to avail herself of his services, is portrayed asking Leo Grande (not his real name) questions about how it all works logistically. She peppers him with questions about how it all works logistically while pushing for personal details that he only grudgingly provides. While he calmly seeks to reassure her, her biography gradually spills out, including the death of her husband two years earlier. A teacher by training, she approaches the whole exercise with an almost clinical sense of curiosity that can be very, very funny well aware of the absurdities of this arrangement and ready to back out at a moment’s notice.
“Leo Grande” uses great performances by McCormack, an Irish actor you may recognize from his hit series “Peaky Blinders.” These performances overcome lepraphobia in the script and presentation to create a fun viewing experience.
Still, Thompson provides the film’s emotional core, playing a woman in her mid-50s who says, “I want to play at feeling young again,” speaks openly about never having experienced an orgasm and expresses concern early on that by doing this she’s “just a seedy old pervert.” The movie largely avoids being jokey or overly sentimental, but those who dwell on the “body positivity” element shouldn’t miss the underlying themes not only about accepting who you are but lamenting missed opportunities and roads not taken, which resonate in a very universal manner.
The small scale of the project (its budget was only $2.5 million) makes the film’s arrival via Hulu understandable, but one hopes that Thompson’s work here isn’t overlooked or forgotten because of the understated nature of the material and the venue. So good luck to you, indeed, to Nancy and Leo (who aren’t their real names).