Good Luck To You, Leo Grande: An Orgasm Fairy Tale For Old Women!

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, is a fairy tale for older women about intimacy, menopause and understanding orgasm in your sixties!

CW: Adult Content, Language, and has Spoilers for the film Good Luck to you, Leo Grande.

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, is a fairy tale for older women about intimacy, menopause and understanding orgasm in your sixties!

A woman’s body is both a site of exploitation and a site of resistance. It is out of this vexed space that the witch is conjured. – Jessie Kindig’s “All the Witches They Could not Burn

On an episode from Inside Amy Schumer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus deadpans: “[in] every actress’ life, the media decides when you’re not believably fuckable anymore.” And Tina Fey adds, “cause they think your vagina is gonna turn into a hermit crab.” Bingo! Menopausal women are unwatchable.

But here’s a well-kept secret: there’s a quiet little film on Hulu that tossed out this broken formula. Readers, I highly recommend checking out feel-good Good Luck to you, Leo Grande. Fair warning: the film starts with the same premise – older women have to pay for it if they want sex with sexy younger men.

What is Good Luck To You, Leo Grande about?

Everything that needs to be said about this film has already been said by Egyptian-American journalist and feminist Mona Eltahawy. I’m just adding a much-needed aunty footnote.

It’s not for everybody. Rated R for mature audiences–and they do mean mature! Younger cishet women will probably run away from it. Can’t imagine men flocking to watch it either. So yay, welcome to our own le watch party. Hello, Hulu.

Never miss real stories from India's women.

Register Now

Daryl Mccormack and Emma Thompson in a scene from Good Luck to you, Leo Grande (2022) now streaming on Hulu. Image Credit: The New Statesman

In this witty revision of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, a postmenopausal Nancy keenly feels the slings and arrows of her beastliness. She detests her ageing, sagging body that has felt no pleasure or desire.

Why do we detest our bodies?

But it’s not just the ageing female body that is repulsive. We’ve detested our younger bodies just as much, haven’t we? Growing up in the land of goddesses and acid attacks and gang rapes, like Nancy, the sexual power of our bodies was wasted on so many of us as teenagers.

We hid under layers to repel even as we craved invisibility cloaks. Because over-policed bodies are repressed bodies. Women all over the world, in every culture, and in every historical time period are taught to make themselves publicly unfuckable and privately desirable.

Generations of overprotective mothers warn their daughters: “Vanity is a weakness, dear,” and “Men can’t always control themselves.”

Even Nancy as the teacher of young girls echoes this: “If you look like sluts you will be treated like sluts. Look respectable, or men would be tempted.” We are the reason for men’s moral corruption. That’s why so many of us are groped, pawed, raped and killed.

Any wonder then that something odd happens: some of us aren’t exactly “brimming with sexual confidence.” We never get that memo to be “privately desirable” and tie ourselves into knots loathing our bodies even in private, intimate spaces. Yet we have sex, and birth children.

Then comes menopause, and with it comes:

  • The vaginal dryness.
  • The lack of concentration.
  • The droopy, lumpy self-esteem.
  • Running hot and cold at the same time.
  • No concupiscence (lustful desire) at all.

Fresh betrayal by our bodies, Part II

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is about women society deemed unfuckable. But Nancy Stokes (AKA Susan Robinson) has had it with her hermiting vagina. She’s half-ready to dust off and undo the decades of brainwashing that told her to please her husband, fake her orgasms, and slutshame other women as a religious education teacher.

The film’s simple problem-solution structure teases this cognitive dissonance. If you’re so tightly wound up and can’t let go of that “thing inside that grips you, that judges you, that watches you from the outside,” how can you feel pleasure from deep within?

Nancy sets herself a target: she wants to know what an orgasm feels like. Been there, haven’t we? Took years to demystify. We read about it in books, watched fake earth-shattering and synchronized ones in English films and TV shows with white people, yet never really knew it.

Can only truly love unleash orgasms?

Romantic fiction had us believe female orgasms were as abundant and spontaneous as their male counterparts—we just needed true Love to unleash them.

Generations of young girls have been schooled to stay invested in this Sleeping Beauty story; to hold on to the fiction that we’ll experience the same happily ever after once we find the one made just for us. How soon before confusion and disappointment dawn though? Maybe brown bodies are different?

Wait, it must be the institution of arranged marriage! Nah, it’s just me.

Our mothers stayed silent

No one bothered to set us straight: it’s not you. Generations of overprotective mothers who yakked at us to cover up packed no words of sexual wisdom in trousseaus and dowries. They stayed silent.

  • Colluded to perpetuate that well-preserved desi myth of true happiness residing in endogamy.
  • We were breastfed dizzying mixed messages: stay virginal for true love but queue up for the Russian roulette of an arranged “suhag raat.”
  • Don’t trust men but dress in your finest for the first seduction.
  • Deceptions of finding true love ground up into recycled marriages-made-in-heaven lies.
  • Bottle-fed to await this sanctioned human trafficking, but barred from exploring our pleasure ourselves because good girls don’t do that.

Meanwhile, it’s perfectly acceptable for men to enjoy masturbation, healthy even. But how, if women are ever caught breaking that taboo?

Remember the flak Swara Bhasker got for that one scene in Veere Di Wedding? And she’s young. Imagine if older, mature women did that. Double the haw.

Women masturbate more, please!

And that’s where this film goes. Because fuck those collective haws.

As the film moves from meeting number one to two, then three, Nancy still hasn’t orgasmed. But she’s loosening up. Shorter skirts, more cleavage. And she unmasks some inconvenient truths about herself not just related to body dysmorphia.

She is judgmental, nosy, biased, and hypocritical even. Oh, and she kinda hates her kids. They’re a deadweight around her neck.


Why can’t women say they hate their kids?

Doesn’t she know no woman is allowed to say that? That such women are monstrous?

C’mon, Nancy, you’re already baring our bodies, why strip down our psyches too?

No wonder she’s miserable and hates herself. Nancy disavows motherhood and slashes patriarchal cords. Even woke Leo balks at this—how can a mother say this, think this?

The easy formulas from the start of the film start to muddy: Irish Catholic Leo is uninhibited though lugging toxic maternal baggage of his own. English harridan Nancy wants to be friends and burn his boundaries, but when Leo initiates teacher and pupil role-play she’s grossed out. She’s not open to doing anything perverted, thank you very much!

She’s shocked he doesn’t feel degraded for his choices or see his work as demeaning. To a puritanical Nancy, his choices would be more palatable if he was saving for college or doing this for survival. She wants to explore the uncharted and the unhaveable, yet can’t shake off the malignant propaganda still pressing down on her—the internalized misogyny, ageism, ableism, and so many other prejudices.

When dowdy Nancy does resolve some of her internal conflicts she comes armed with a bold fuck-list of what-ifs and if-onlys. Her self-prescribed syllabus catalogues things she’s only dreamed about: the never-before-done things; the always-wanted-to-try-but-didn’t-know-how things.

But even the list is repressed.

Oh, Nancy.

Why is orgasm not on your list Nancy?

The one thing she wants the most is not even on it: an orgasm. Why Nancy? Why hate yourself so much? Why hold that mirror up to us? Air and blare our deepest, darkest and dirtiest laundry: it’s not even the fear of flawed reflections anymore. But that of nudity. Of intimacy. Of gazing at bodies conditioned to hiding under safe layers for more than half our lives.

At the end of the film when Nancy views herself in the full-length mirror, she comes to love the body she’s hated all her life: the sanskari, non-controversial, hegemonic carcass that pleases the husband and bears his children.

And here Emma Thompson is at her bravest as she lovingly caresses her lined and mature body in full-frontal nudity. I gasped aloud at this scene. It’s visceral. Elemental.

And exhilarating

If you love Emma Thompson, you will love her even more for doing this film. It’s as if Edward Ferrars died (thank God) and Elinor Dashwood is free to find herself in a hotel room that she paid for with her own damn earnings. Free to love herself. Unshrivel.

And blossom like those flowers on the frumpy prints she wears at the start of the film. I mean hello, someone says Georgia O’Keeffe (yes, I know Keeffe denied the vulval imagery all her life, but as viewers it’s hard to unsee)?

A realistic description of orgasm!

Did Katy Brand (the writer) finally give us not just the realistic female orgasm but also the more elusive female gaze? Is this our “classy porn” that Nancy googles for her lust research?

Yes. Yes. Yes!

Mrs Robinson does graduate her Big O levels. And I love that the film does not make her orgasm dependent on the enterprising and dependable Leo. But it takes hard work in loving oneself enough to feel powerful enough to touch yourself and induce the big O.

As the film ended, I wondered why to wish him good luck. I remember feeling disappointed. Why isn’t the title of the film, Good Luck Nancy Stokes/Susan Robinson?

And then I realised that she’s already found whatever it is she needs. Or, stay with me here, it could mean good luck to his vocation of pleasing more women; may Leo go on to become the sexual evangelist the world merits. She even recommends him to friends in dire need of healing. Because Nancy wishes concupiscence for you and me.

Strong, lustful desire, come to mumma!

In the final scene, Mrs as she disrobes and admires herself, touching herself, we know she will be fine. Nancy needs no luck anymore nor a mirror to tell her who’s the fairest of them all. Her new knowledge of her body as a wonder, a playground of delight that makes her feel invincible will keep her fires stoked.

There’s a lot the film fudges and papers over of course. It doesn’t discuss race at all or the fraught colonial politics of a White woman purchasing sex from a man of colour. It romanticizes the legalization of sex work. Sex work is legal in 53 countries including India. But that hasn’t deterred trafficking or abuse.

Even in the most progressive countries, sex workers continue to be policed, doxed, harassed, and besieged by precarity. Even in the decriminalized and “safe” spaces of Amsterdam, conventional morality just won’t let go. Leo’s vision of regulated and safe sex work as a much-needed public service is so, so compelling though. The perfect fantasy.

A fairy tale? Yes!

The film is, in the end, a fairy tale. It promises a happily-ever-after not for little but mature girls ready to love themselves.

Because you know what’s really orgasmic? Consent. And the real fantasy in this film is not just the buildup of the female orgasm. It is the sensitive, intuitive sexual partner whose vocation is to pleasure. Leo Grande is a fairy godmother and Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is the genie you and I need.

So aunties, go forth and Susan Robinsonfy your life. So what if it takes an older white woman to make us love our desi bodies. Hex yourself.

Don’t let nobody tell you that you’ve only God and grandkids to look forward to. Find, and become your own godmother. Urge your friends to find concupiscence too. In the Catholic faith concupiscence is the propensity to sin. Sin away.

I wish you grande pleasure and jumbo joy. You got this.

P.S. Remember, every godmother needs her magic wand; Amazon delivers.

Image source: Wikipedia and Paul Simcock, via Getty Images, free and edited on CanvaPro

Liked this post?

Join the 100000 women at Women's Web who get our weekly mailer and never miss out on our events, contests & best reads - you can also start sharing your own ideas and experiences with thousands of other women here!


About the Author

1 Posts | 439 Views

Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

All Categories