Comedy,  Drama

Good Luck to You Leo Grande Analysis | Sex Work and Intimacy

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Director: Sophie Hyde

Date Created: 2022-06-17 00:00

Editor's Rating:

A semi-elderly, retired Catholic school teacher decides to hire an attractive, young man as an escort to help her tap into her unlocked sexuality. 

Interesting concept… Usually, the gender tables are turned and the vibes aren’t so wholesome. 

This Good Luck to You Leo Grande analysis will explore this film’s fascinating approach to sex work dynamics.

Good Luck to You Leo Grande explores intimacy and sex between two very different human beings in a way that’s simple, effective, and enticing. Given that the majority of the plot takes place in a lofty hotel room and the story’s weight lies heavily on the dialogue between Nancy (the retired teacher) and Leo (the young sex worker), the streamlined, stripped-down narrative invites the audience into an intimate space.

Without the distractions of spectacle, we’re adequately invested in simply getting to know each character through their dialogue, mannerisms, and personality. This minimalistic approach to the narrative welcomes viewers into Nancy’s hotel room with the dynamism of a live stage play.

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Good Luck to You Leo Grande Analysis

Good Luck to You Leo Grande Analysis

The Actors

Emma Thompson is nothing short of phenomenal as the uptight, insecure Nancy hesitantly bold about stepping into new sexual territory.

And Daryl McCormack as Leo Grande is a character so confident yet relatable, sarcastic yet sensitive. Watching him chip away at Nancy’s rigid exterior is captivating and exciting. 

The Reality of Sex Work

The story’s dialogue mainly covers the controversial topic of sex work, largely viewing it through a positive lens. At times, it almost felt like an advertisement for sex work. The film had you thinking – maybe it won’t be so bad to try it out. It’s more than sex, it’s therapy really. 

But sex work has never been a noble profession. Since the beginning of time, sex workers have not been considered highly esteemed members of society.

Good Luck to You Leo Grande explores sex work as a means for emotional, sexual, and self-growth. However, is this perspective minimizing the dark truth of the majority of sex industry encounters?

Lacking the insight to adequately cover the topic of sex work, I, fortunately, discovered this article written by a sex worker themselves on their perspective of Good Luck to You Leo Grande

Written by Jaimie Tomas, this article highlights the inconspicuous discrepancies between this film and the reality that a lot of sex workers face. 

Tomas states, “…real-life sex workers who take such work [private escorts] usually only have two concerns in mind: money, and getting out safely.” Tomas contrasts this reality to the relationship between Leo and Nancy where Leo seems genuinely invested in Nancy’s life and sexual satisfaction. He doesn’t seem concerned with money or his safety really. Maybe just his privacy as he wards off Nancy’s probing questions. 

According to this point of view, the average sex worker doesn’t approach their work as therapy for the client; the service they provide is not done with the primary purpose of improving their client’s well-being. Their priority is their own money and their own safety.

In Good Luck to You Leo Grande, both Leo and Nancy benefit from the bond that they share. At the end of the movie, we see Nancy look at her bare body with a new satisfaction and positivity and we watch Leo strut down the city streets with a grin of fulfillment, maybe even accomplishment. They both walk away from their interaction with more than money and a revamped sexual outlook. There was an emotional fulfillment as well on both ends. Apparently, this is not the typical outcome of a sex work exchange and Tomas warns to not let this movie allow you to think that it is. 

  1. Firstly, a straight male escort is a very rare occurrence. Most sex work is purchased by men so women and gay men are the sex workers in the highest demand.
  2. Secondly, sex work is very dangerous, especially with how criminalized it is in a lot of places. This leaves a lot of sex workers unprotected by the law.
  3. And finally, the sex industry is often very crooked and exploitative. Not every sex worker is willfully doing the job as a sexually liberated entrepreneur like Leo. A lot are forced into it through tight financial situations, dangerous relationships, and human trafficking.

These three aspects of sex work are thwarted and minimized in the film. Instead, an elderly, lonely woman purchasing sex work is typical, the environment is safe and therapeutic, and the sex worker holds an enthusiastic agency over their career. 

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The Invisibility of Old Age

Despite the unrealistic approach to sex work, Tomas admires how the film addresses the role of invisibility and undesirability that society often reserves for older women. Nancy is compassionately portrayed as a well-rounded, complex, desirable human being which is a rare position for an older woman to be in.

But was Nancy buying sex work the best method of resolving elderly invisibility? Maybe not. It’s hard to trust the genuineness of a relationship that’s being paid for.

Tomas argues that there are many other strategies that can be used to combat the loneliness of widowhood and old age than purchasing sex. 

There are so many ways to explore your sexuality and pursue sexual intimacy without buying sex from another person but the movie only presented that one solution. 

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Other Avenues for Intimacy

There are different avenues for intimacy besides sex. Intimacy is peeling back the layers of your heart. It’s vulnerability. It’s connecting with another’s humanity.

This can include deep discussions on your fears and desires. This includes a hug. This includes crying on someone’s shoulder.

Intimacy can be achieved with your family, with your friends, and with licensed health professionals like your doctor or therapist. You can form organic intimate relationships with those around you and you can invest in above-ground health services that naturally involve a bit of vulnerability.

I came across this clip from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah talking about the “right to sex” and how the world just needs more platonic intimacy and I couldn’t agree more. 

Definitely give it a watch because Trevor Noah’s mind is golden:

People who aren’t able to receive sex on their terms often turn to sex work to fulfill those desires as Nancy did in Good Luck to You Leo Grande. Trevor Noah argues in this clip that the issue isn’t a mandatory need for sex but a human necessity for intimacy. Society often limits men’s options for intimacy to sex rather than allowing them to be vulnerable in other contexts.

Women on the other hand are allowed to be emotional, they’re allowed to be vulnerable, and their insecurities and imperfections can be easily bandaged by attentive strangers in the public bathroom.

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Sexual Double Standards

As a woman, Nancy has so many more options for intimacy in this society than a man would. As someone who grew up in the Catholic faith, she could have a church community that she can get involved in, she can join Christian mingle or eHarmony for more romance, or even see a sex therapist if she’s just trying to achieve sexual ecstasy in her old age.

At the movie’s end, Nancy eventually finds sexual fulfillment without Leo Grande’s aid. Does this mean that she never truly needed him specifically in the first place? Perhaps.

As a viewer, we’re not convinced that there is anything in Nancy’s life that restricts her options for intimacy to sex work only. When you think about it, how does a Catholic school teacher who so strongly preached about abstaining from “concupiscence” (lustful desire) end up succumbing to purchasing expensive sex work?

That’s the big question mark over the whole film.

If Nancy was instead a 60-year-old man with no wife, no friends, and estranged children, this movie would be more realistic BUT it would be a battle not to have the protagonist come off as an old creep…

We root for female pleasure and cringe at male pleasure. Maybe because one is less common than the other, I’m not sure, but male and female sexuality is approached very differently in society.

The fact that Nancy is a harmless, sexually reserved woman makes her relationship with Leo more palatable for viewers and believable enough if you’re not too familiar with the reality of sex work.

In Conclusion…

Good Luck to You Leo Grande explores the physical and emotional intimacy of an unsuspecting duo in a lighthearted, wholesome way that contrasts greatly with the reality of a client/worker relationship in the sex industry.

If the gender roles were reversed and Nancy was an old man while Leo was a young woman, it would present a situation that more closely resembles the real world yet is less digestible and comfortable to view.

Despite the film’s sanitized approach to the reality of sex work, it presents a fascinating exploration of intimacy on a physical, emotional, and personal level. The acting and direction are top notch and the atmosphere the film creates feels safe and welcoming for vulnerable discussion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film and appreciate the discussion it encourages around sex work, platonic intimacy, and sexual double standards.

Rating: 8.5/10

What are your thoughts on sex work and intimacy in Good Luck to You Leo Grande? Let me know in the comments below!

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Peace, love, and lots of popcorn,


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