It is a truth universally acknowledged that women will pay for a man to clean their house and to have sex with them. Borrowing a little from Jane Austen, this is the premise that 50something Gina Henderson is working off in a new Aussie film, How To Please A Woman, when she decides to set up a male house-cleaning service with a little extra on the side.
If this sounds like a raunchy film or one with crass jokes, don’t worry – it is not. Rather, it is a charming, thoughtful and genuinely funny movie about life and love – whether you’re young and desirable or – as in Gina’s case – widely considered by society at large to be past your prime.
When the quiet and a bit downtrodden Gina (the brilliant Sally Phillips from Veep and Bridget Jones’s Diary) is summarily made redundant from her admin job, she casts around for something to do and lands upon a removals company that is going bust. Taking her courage in both hands, she buys the company, training her new male employees to do the thing most women love least – clean their home. When her fellow ocean-swimming girlfriends give her a strip-o-gram for her birthday, they convince her that those women paying for men to clean their skirting boards might also pay for something extra, in other words – “a minimum of one orgasm”.
Although Gina tells the police who subsequently investigate her business that it is “fulfilling a need for all those women who feel sexually invisible”, the film’s humour and heart doesn’t let us feel sorry for the female clients. On the contrary, they are only stepping up to the table and staking a claim on something men have assumed to be theirs by right since time immemorial – ie. sexual pleasure.
Gina’s best friends, played by Tasma Walton, Haley McElhinney and Caroline Brazier, all in various ways use her services to their own ends and satisfaction. Rounding out the cast are Cameron Daddo as Gina’s uninterested-in-sex husband Adrian, and Erik Thomson as Steve, the pasty-baking head of the little moving company Gina buys. One of the film’s funniest –and also very ‘touching’ (no pun intended) – scenes is one in which Gina and Steve inadvertently physically connect, without ever coming within six feet of each other.
The writing and direction of this film is by Australian filmmaker Renée Webster. Her genius casting, spot-on dialogue and determination to make a film about a subject that – on paper at least – would not be an investor’s dream (ie middle-aged women paying for sex and cleaning) is to be applauded.
Not many films make me laugh out loud. This one did…several times.
Talking about the film, director/writer Webster said, “There is a lot of sexual content in the film, but I don’t sexualise the visual representation of women. Instead, we honour what women look like, and I give sexual stories to women in that huge, under-explored area of those ‘no longer young, and not yet old’.
“I’m interested in dancing along the naughty edge and staying true to the things that matter in our private lives. But once the dust has settled from all the fun, I hope this film is one that lingers and opens up new conversations in our lives.” Indeed.
How To Please A Woman opens nationally in Australian cinemas 19 May
How To Please A Woman opens nationally in New Zealand cinemas 26 May.