The Film Buffa: ‘Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’ walks to its own beat, creating authentic atmosphere

I love movies that slow things down in a genre that likes the plot to move like a race car. Enter Sophie Hyde’s “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” an unconventional, “march to its own beat” film that slowly lays into you, story-wise. The beginning is simple and interesting enough for most proper age groups to digest it.

Nancy (a wonderful Emma Thompson) wants to get laid, and then some. This is no joke as the movie literally lights the match with her first appointment in a hotel room with Leo (Daryl McCormick, holding serve well with a pro). Who is this Leo Grande? He’s not just your ordinary sex worker; he’s a complete ladies man delight, a human courtesy dish that doesn’t just provide sex. He can have a full conversation in his underwear, provide counseling without opening up too much about himself. Leo is exactly what poor Nancy, a widowed school teacher who has never experienced a certain sexual pleasure, needs. She just doesn’t know it yet, or for the first act.

If you’re expecting a normal romantic drama with some comedy beats on Hyde’s terrain, you’re in for a different movie than the Hulu Original I watched. This one moves to a slower beat than most films like it, even if I will admit most of those films aren’t as elegant and introspective as “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.” The challenge in the film’s title could mean a variety of things, but it could present a challenge to audience members that are in a hurry.

For the ones who wait and stay on the ride, they will receive one of my favorite Thompson performances. Free and clear, with no historical linguistic angle or sniper-type quality to her character. Nancy is simply in need of connection, with the physical part being very near the top of the list but not exactly resting on top. McCormick’s Leo is her much-needed sanity checkup, following a tragedy that followed a rather routine marriage. It’s Mr. Grande who gets to provide the thrill, putting the pep back in Nancy’s step.

SPOILER ALERT: They do indeed get “there” eventually, but the build-up and aftermath is the more interesting part. That’s where performance gets to happen, the messy areas between what made Leo choose this particular giving line of work and what drove Nancy to request his services in the first place. Thompson bares all, literally and figuratively for the role. Gorgeous at the age of 63, it’s not the kind of “look at my body” moment, but more of a wrapped-in element of the story. One of her character’s troubles is not respecting and learning to love her body, even if she doesn’t necessarily feel like changing it. In fleshing that out, Thompson goes for broke and gives the audience everything in one stunning moment on film.

McCormick, the other actor in this essentially two-person cinema play, forms an interplay with his co-star that grows sharper by the minute, a sequence that moves smoothly over 97 minutes. With a suave look and accent, he is disarming but it doesn’t take long for the teacher in Nancy to see something that’s ailing a bit. That mutual dependency gives the film some weight, which resonates during the deeper third act, which you can bet includes a few climaxes.

I enjoyed this film in three parts. In the mad haste of life, movies can’t always be consumed all at once. Producing a readable review-one that doesn’t go diving headfirst into the trials and tribulation, along with the alarming peccadillos of our film critic personality-can be double trouble. That sort of explains the delay in getting this one out. An unconventional film viewed in an unconventional, yet not exactly inviting, format. It worked with Hyde’s sweet yet wise “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.” Katy Brand’s script doesn’t give an extra inch to the audience, but it does provoke thought while entertaining. Bravo, Emma Thompson.

Photo Credit: Hulu/Lionsgate

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