How To Please A Woman isn’t what it seems from the outset. Given the title, and what can only be expected as a sex comedy, this new Australian feature is actually a heart-warming, simple comedy that takes sex as we’re accustomed to on-screen, a subverts it in almost every way.
The vision of debut director Renee Webster, the film centres on Gina (Sally Phillips) whose changed work circumstances and loveless marriage with her husband (Cameron Daddo) have left her feeling miserable. But when her friends hire her a male stripper from a failing cleaning company for her birthday, she decides to transform the business he works for into a full-blown male brothel with men who satisfy the sexual and cleaning standards of the local woman.
Owner Steve (Erik Thompson) is initially hesitant but agrees to let Gina try and make the business work. His employees Tom (Alexander England), Anthony (Ryan Johnson) and Ben (Josh Thomson) begin to learn what is needed to succeed in their new job positions through some learnings imparted from Gina. And just like that, they’re off.
The refreshing thing about this movie is that it is no American Pie adjacent sort of flick. Webster has provided a significant emotional and romantic weight throughout the story which Phillips commands with ease, her wit, humility and honest portrayal of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown feels refreshing.
Indeed, from the outside, How To Please A Woman may seem like a lighthearted story about sex work but what lies inside is a story about female empowerment at its heart, and commentary on sex positivity and decency in sex work feels refreshing. Particularly for Australian audiences, the lack of aversion to discussions around sex yet understated sex scenes is something new.
Absolutely there are scenes with strong comedic value, and naturally, in a film about sex, there are your standard tropes to conjure a few laughs, but the screenplay does well to re-centre the narrative on Gina trying her best to keep the business afloat and affect change in the people around her and puts women’s pleasure at the centre of her crusade.
For those expecting a fun, sexy romp, How To Please A Woman is not the film for you. But for those seeking a meaningful, earnest and honest story about change, love and sex, this is the film for you. Don’t miss this one.