Review: Let’s talk about sex. Scriptwriter Katy Brand certainly does, in amusingly graphic detail, in a sensual, empowering and thoroughly feel-fabulous comedy drama about a retired religious education teacher seeking her first orgasm and the charming escort hired to shepherd her to nirvana. Isabella Laughland appears briefly as a former pupil in an uplifting final act but Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is essentially a two-hander between Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack that relishes the verbal foreplay between richly drawn characters at very different stages of their lives.
Despite the provocative subject matter, director Sophie Hyde sidesteps mere titillation to address timely issues of body self-image, shame and sex positivity head-on, including heated scenes of intimacy that venerate the architecture of the human body and our capacity to receive and give pleasure. Brand’s dialogue occasionally fakes an orgasm in pursuit of a punchline, like when Thompson’s widow second-guesses her decision to hire a sex worker young enough to be her son and babbles aloud, “I’m a seedy old pervert. I feel like Rolf Harris all of a sudden!” Missteps are exceedingly rare and Thompson and McCormack are beautifully matched. The balance of power in their on-screen relationship subtly shifts over the course of the film as his tenderness and heartfelt compliments dismantle decades of self-doubt and denial.
Nancy Stokes (Thompson) has only one notch on her bed post – her late husband – and for 31 unremarkable years their nocturnal couplings never made the headboard move let alone the Earth. “I made a decision after my husband died never to fake an orgasm again,” she politely explains to Leo (McCormack), who Nancy hires for one night of furtive self-discovery.
Initial awkwardness melts as Leo gets to know Nancy and better understand her physical needs, raising a toast “to being empirically sexy” with champagne from the hotel mini bar. Their free-flowing conversation touches upon fantasies and desires (Nancy has an achievable checklist) and the widow is visibly shocked when Leo discloses the age of his oldest client. “Eighty-two?!” she gasps, having previously fixated on the age gap between her and Leo. “I’m feeling a bit better now.”
Set almost entirely in a well-appointed hotel room, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande champions the power of human connection – physical, emotional and spiritual – to allay fears and deep-rooted insecurities. Thompson is luminous, laying herself bare in every sense as Nancy crosses a threshold to vulnerability in a safe space of her own choosing. Chemistry with McCormack sizzles, building to a simple yet devastatingly effective scene of acceptance and glowing self-appreciation which confront unrealistic ideals that proliferate in the media. Every body type is sexy and Hyde’s picture pops a champagne cork in glorious affirmation.
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Review: When it comes to masterfully merchandising a film, especially to young audiences, Disney twinkles brighter than every other studio. In 1996, parents travelled to infinity and beyond in search of Buzz Lightyear action figures, when the astronaut toy topped Christmas wish-lists and feverish demand far exceeded supply. Six-year-old Andy supposedly received his Buzz Lightyear action figure in the first Toy Story film as an early birthday present, after a trip to the cinema with his mother to see an action-packed film about a courageous Space Ranger. Writer-director Angus MacLane’s out-of-this-world computer-animated adventure is that picture.
Co-written by Jason Headley, Lightyear unfolds in a different universe from Pixar Animation Studios’ earlier work (the central character is voiced by Chris Evans rather than Tim Allen) but iconography from Andy’s playtime proliferates, including Buzz’s catchphrase and the insidious threat of Emperor Zurg. Composer Michael Giacchino, who won an Oscar for his score for Up, tugs heartstrings here too, especially in the film’s emotional gut-punch that elegantly underlines a Space Ranger’s personal sacrifices. I confess that I wept like a leaky faucet. Visuals are breathtaking and a robotic cat sidekick named Sox is a bountiful source of humour, but Lightyear is one of Pixar’s fluffier and more forgettable offerings. Compared with the thrilling earthbound escapades of Andy’s Buzz Lightyear figure over the past 25 years, child’s play comfortably wins out over intergalactic survival.
Buzz Lightyear (Evans) and commanding officer Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) crash-land their spaceship with a manifest of 1,200 slumbering passengers on a planet with aggressively hostile insectoids and vegetation. Marooned 4.2 million light years from home, the Space Rangers reanimate crew and passengers to construct a fortified base from which to launch test flights of an experimental jet piloted by Buzz. Unfortunately, time dilation dictates that for every minute Buzz spends in space travelling at hyperspeed, the people back at base age one year.
Buzz sacrifices precious years with the people he loves to complete his mission, accompanied by robot companion Sox (Peter Sohn), Alisha’s granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer) and rookies Mo (Taika Waititi) and Darby (Dale Soules). In their way stands Emperor Zurg and an army of mechanised monstrosities.
Lightyear is a slickly orchestrated battle beyond the stars that melds high-stakes action and family-friendly comedy. Diversity and positive representation are woven into the fabric of a script that exploits the notion of time dilation to deliver one deeply satisfying narrative curveball. Vocal performances are polished, including droll comic relief from Waititi as a clumsy newbie, who always seems to be in the wrong place. MacLane shoots for infinity and beyond like the film’s namesake but cannot quite escape the gravitational pull of high expectations.
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