Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is the kind of frictionless non-starter destined to be watched at half-attention.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, or so the title of Sophie Hyde’s latest feature goes. It’s a peculiar statement from the outset, one that only becomes more confusing once the proper context has been provided by the film’s end. Why would we wish any luck upon sex worker Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) and not the painfully awkward, middle-aged, retired schoolteacher (Emma Thompson) he’s been paid to shack up with? Are we to feel bad for the young lad, wishing him the best in the face of such adversity? That would certainly go against the nice-core, sex-positive message the film uncomfortably attempts to articulate every ten minutes or so. But given how mawkishly Thompson’s semi-senior citizen is defined outside of small familial details — she has a son who’s too “boring” for her taste, an estranged daughter stuck in Spain — and her gracelessness, there’s a small likelihood this could be a back-handed quip after the fact. Maybe there’s a hint of irony to the name that’s hard to detect under the maudlin feel-good sentiment the film carries through, reducing the impact any and all attempts at this type of subversion could possibly land. But considering the general trajectory the narrative takes, that would be giving this thing too much credit: Hyde and her first-time screenwriter, Katy Brand, keep the drama moving toward a conclusion that’s pre-determined and somehow undercooked, where what happens in the film’s middle stretch leading to this end doesn’t matter as much. Things go as expected, yet even those beats feel belabored. For a film that frames most of its preoccupations around sex, there’s seldom any friction to be found in regards to the central conflict; scenes stack up against one another and form an illusion of temporal progress, when there’s, visually and thematically speaking, little that separates one encounter from the next.
On a strictly formal level, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande resembles the type of non-cinematic entertainment you’d throw on your television when your full intent is to dick around on your phone for most of the runtime. Confined to one hotel bedroom over three different encounters between Grande and his sugar mama — there’s a fourth shot in the hotel’s lobby, talk about a Covid-era location switch-up — and having McCormack and Thompson alone together for most of the runtime, the film bears the look and feel of filmed theater, with a few big actorly moments sprinkled throughout for a little bit of goosing. Both leads deliver serviceable work, impressive given the tepid nature of the material they’ve been provided, but there remains little real ambition to be found from any participating party here. That apathy makes sense to a degree: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande hardly reads like a project worthy of much interest, instead choosing to play things safe with a subject that requires anything but. But maybe, just maybe, we’re supposed to read the title as a message from character to audience, with the titular “you” serving to address the viewing public at large, followed by Leo signing off. If that’s the case, good luck to all who endure something this trite, indeed.
You can stream Sophia Hyde’s Good Luck to You, Leo Grande on Hulu beginning on June 17.
Originally published as part of Tribeca Film Festival 2022 — Dispatch 1.