New from A Reel of One’s Own by Andrea Thompson: Chicago Critics Film Festival 2022: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

For “Good Luck To You, Leo Grande,” freedom isn’t just found in truth, but in pleasure. And the film is deeply knowledgeable about the fact that sex and pleasure can be two very different things. To a depressing degree.

Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) has been aware of that dichotomy for quite some time, but it’s only at age 55, now both widowed and retired, that she’s found the courage to change that and take perhaps the first bold step of her life by hiring a sex worker.

The eponymous Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), we soon find out, is top dollar, and for good reason. He’s so damn dreamy that Nancy asks if he’s a sex saint at one point, and I for one wouldn’t object to the nomination. He’s very aware of that his job involves more than just sex, since some of his clients’ needs don’t involve the actual act at all. He provides a fantasy for those who book him, and he’s very good at the core goal, that of a connection with someone else, even if it’s one they’ve paid for.

If Leo ever did need an alternative career path, there’s probably a bright future for him in therapy. As it is, the film never forgets that there is a power dynamic here, and it is very aware of how easily Nancy could and does cross a line. But for a woman who’s interested in sleeping with a younger man, Nancy is the opposite of a predatory older woman, and Leo is far more than the dreamboat he appears to be.

It’s a different kind of fantasy than a mere bit of fluff for women of a certain age, especially when you have Emma Thompson strutting her stuff with a young up and comer like Daryl McCormack who’s able to hold his own. “Good Luck” never forgets that Leo and Nancy are both flawed individuals who are both very capable of hurting each other in this situation. But they’re also capable of growing through their experiences with each other, and this more internal change is what “Good Luck” is far more interested in, even if it never ventures far from the motel room where the duo meet in. 

Never though, as those looking for a more physical payoff needn’t worry. “Good Luck” clearly believes in what it’s preaching, but it’s also into delayed gratification, allowing Nancy to become less dowdy and more confident in herself before bringing on the nudity and allowing us to see the pleasure Nancy and Leo are clearly getting from each other despite the missteps.

If there is a fantasy involved, it doesn’t involve sex so much as outlook, that the fully revealed truth could actually set you free as it is said to do. But the bliss of ignorance might still be more appealing to some, especially if we are free to build the bars of our own cage, whether it’s meant to contain our body, minds, or both. 

Grade: A-

from A Reel Of One’s Own

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