Two incredible features that both receive an A- review from me. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and Pleasure are two of the best films to be released this year.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is an utter delight! While actors Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack's chemistry is irresistible. Leo Grande is a film that is intimate, personal, and sex-positive. Director Sophie Hyde focuses on the complexities (emotional and physical) that come with sex; while discussing the misconceptions about sex work. Simply a brilliant little film. You won't be disappointed. Leo Grande is now streaming on Hulu, and it is one of the most intimate films to be released in a long time. Director Sophie Hyde's (2019's Animals) picture is utterly refreshing, shedding new light on sex workers. Taking place mainly in the confined space of a hotel room, Leo Grande listens to two people conversing and finding a human connection through sex. Thompson plays Nancy Stokes, a retired teacher, and recent window. Nancy embarks on a post-marital sexual awakening and hires a sex worker named Leo Grande (newcomer McCormack).
Leo is a charismatic and compassionate being; who wants to offer Nancy a fulfilling experience. Nancy also informs Leo that she has never experienced an orgasm in her life. Nancy is embarrassed, but Leo has no qualms about this and encourages Nancy to embrace these feelings. The emotional weight and thought-provoking themes sneak up on you throughout the film's 97 minute runtime. We see vulnerabilities come out of Nancy and also vulnerabilities come out of Leo and his past. Leo Grande is like a well-written play that blossoms on the screen. It's also sneakily radical in the best of ways. You will laugh and maybe even cry as Hyde's picture explores new territories for sexual awakening stories. Lastly, the ending scene in Leo Grande really stuck with me, as it breaks new barriers by showing an older woman (Thompson) fully nude and embracing her body and embracing her beauty as a person. Like a painting, Nancy poses in front of the mirror and is captivated by herself for the first time. Beautiful.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is rated R (Restricted) For Graphic Nudity | Some Language | Sexual Content
Streaming now on Hulu.
Directed by Sophie Hyde
Starring Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack.
Pleasure is a brutally honest and unflinching look into the porn industry. Ninja Thyberg's directorial debut questions the patriarchal gaze with a shocking, realistic, and disturbing narrative front and center. Actress Sofia Kappel's breakout role is one of the most important acting debuts of the year. Pleasure is a film that knocks you down from the first frame and won't let you back up until the credits hit the screen. Pleasure is a film based on Thyberg's 2013 short of the same name and is about a young woman (Kappel) from a small Swedish town who moves to Los Angeles to become the next big porn star. Linnéa (Kappel) is 20 years old and goes by the stage name of "Bella Cherry" after she arrives in LA. Kappel's performance as Bella is raw, riveting, and resilient.
Thyberg's picture peels back the misogynistic layers of the adult film industry, showcasing the hardships that adult film actresses go through every day. We see Bella go to multiple film sets; many of them are heavily male-dominated behind the scenes. Thyberg shows us two polar opposite scenes back-to-back. The first is a BDSM scene where the director of the porn shoot is a woman. In addition, many of the people behind the scenes of this BDSM shoot are also women. The female director makes Bella feel comfortable and safe with the material they are about to shoot. Bella never feels like she is in any danger. Afterwards, Bella feels confident and sex-positive. The second shoot is with only one male director, two male actors, and no one else. The porn shoot is a rough sex scene, and the atmosphere for Bella quickly becomes hostile.
Bella breaks down and tries to leave, but she is manipulated into staying. In blurred shots and fragmented images — we see Bella's point of view — while she is raped by the two male actors. This scene is distressing, but that is the point. Throughout the movie, Thyberg does not slap an agenda onto its storyline. Instead, she leaves that up to the viewers to decide for themselves. Bella's journey through the porn industry as she rises to the top is provocative, disturbing, and determined. Yet, once she gets to the top she begins to wonder if this type of fame is worth it. We see the desire for stardom, the positivity of female-led sets, and the unfortunate power dynamics of a still heavily male-dominated industry that needs to change. Pleasure is enlightening and fully human from the first frame until the last.
Pleasure is Not Rated (NR)
Rent Pleasure on VOD.
Directed by Ninja Thyberg
Starring Sofia Kappel, Revika Anne Reustle, Evelyn Claire, Chris Cock, Dana DeArmond and Kendra Spade.
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