The Unicorn Scale: Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

By Jennie Roberson

September 01, 2022



Photo credit: Image/Lionsgate

Hello there, my lovely Unicorns! I hope everyone is happy, well, and covered in sunblock. Yes, even if you’re inside. Yes, even if you live in colder climes like Scotland. Yes, even if you’re a vampire who lives and feeds in the cover of night. (Also wouldn’t you want that extra bit of help in case you’re out late and get hit by the rays of the dawning sun?) Point is: skincare is important, everyone.

Today I am thinking about my lifelong, deep and abiding love for the genius that is Emma Thompson. Alongside Frances McDormand, she is my favorite living film actress. She was a major inspiration for a main character in my first novel (and, consequently, was every beta reader’s favorite character.) Dame Thompson can do no wrong in my eyes. Full stan, full stop.

So when I saw that Emma had a movie coming out this year and I wouldn’t even have to go to the theater to check it out, you can bet your sweet bippy I was all in. Which leads us to today’s film of interest, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande.

Nancy looking at Leo with a worried expression as they both sit half dressed on the bed.

Before I get ahead of myself, I should go over a few important disclaimers. First and foremost, there will be SPOILERS for this Hulu comedy-drama. As for content warnings, the ones that pop to mind would be for nudity, (unfounded) mentions of possible sex trafficking, characters discussing body image issues, and frank discussions about sex. If you’re concerned there may be a trigger which I did not bring up, this link will likely cover what you’re wondering about (and probably a bunch of questions you didn’t even think to ask). Finally, if this is your first time visiting these internet waters and you’re wondering what the Scale is all about, you can read up about the metric here.

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is a 2022 film focusing on the interactions between Nancy Stokes (Thompson), a widowed teacher who has never had an orgasm, and Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), an Irish sex worker. Nancy has hired Leo for a series of meetings in a hotel room in order to check things off of her sexual bucket list which her uptight husband never wanted to do.

What I Liked:

These are complex characters played with both delicacy and vigor by two powerhouse actors. I knew that going in. I also figured that, since Thompson is an actor and writer of incredible intellect (remember that she won the Oscar for her adaptation of Sense and Sensibility), the script would have a nuanced, fresh take on both middle-aged sexual encounters and the emotional baggage that can come with that. What I didn’t expect ― and delighted in discovering ― is that one character of this two-hander of a story is bi.

Leo tying his shoes on the floor while looking up at Nancy.

I love how Leo exploring his bisexuality as a teen led to him realizing his gift for erotic empathy. It saddened me to learn that this was also the undoing of his relationship with his homophobic mother who then kicked him out, but that is (sadly) also a common tale for a lot of queer youth. But also, importantly, it’s a big reason why as a sex worker he can see the beauty in everyone. Leo’s monologues both about finding something beautiful in every person and seeing their delight and loosening in any pleasure he can give him is a big reflection of both how queer people are attracted to others and what their attractions fire up within them. Leo’s queerness is important to his identity, but his work is not entirely about his queerness ― something we rarely see even in these modern days of cinematic storytelling.

There are also so many wonderful, nonjudgmental takes on sticky subjects during the course of the narrative. For one thing, this may be the most sex-worker-positive and sex-positive piece of media I’ve seen released in years. And yet Leo Grande manages to tackle these subjects with aplomb and humor which keeps it fresh and funny instead of veering into preachiness. 

Nancy and Leo standing together while looking at themselves in the mirror while they are undressing.

What I Didn't Like:

It totally makes sense for Nancy’s character to make a crack about people being fluid (and for Leo’s to once again deflect from talking about his personal life). That said: damn I wish I could have heard the term “bi” in here somewhere.

However, when everything else sings like it does in this movie, I’m not going to keep from calling it a triumph because they missed one of my favorite notes in the symphony. That’d be like going to see The Avengers and my ex-boyfriend bitching and moaning that he wished Black Widow had a bouffant like she did in the comics. Point is, I don’t want to throw out this beautiful bi baby with the bathwater.

The Rating:

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande delivers a grown-up film about sexual intimacy, unpacking shame and emotional baggage, and exploring pleasure with such joy that I found myself often fist-pumping the air. Someone finally made a movie for adults that centers on the joy of sexual pleasure without snickering like a 12-year-old. And with an incredible bi sex worker as a lovable lead, that makes this film nothing short of miraculous.

I cannot stress enough how much I want everyone to see this film. (As if I needed another reason to love and worship Emma Thompson.)

4 unicorn emojis


Facebook Comments