Director: Renée Webster
Writer: Renée Webster
Stars: Sally Phillips, Caroline Brazier, Erik Thomson
How to Please a Woman 2022 is all about pleasure, but as you’ll discover, sex isn’t the only thing on the agenda. Although its title may suggest raunchy and blatant things, Renée Webster’s feature debut is actually more of a comedy-drama that focuses on what happens when the spark in a marriage isn’t dead but uncalled for, and how the foray of A woman in business sparks an awakening for those around her.
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I sat down to watch How to Please a Woman. I hadn’t seen any of the trailers, and there was only the poster that, at best, gives off a ‘Cougar Town after they figured out what Cougar Town was and changed their minds about calling it Cougar Town energy.’ However, no matter what I might have thought, I’m not sure I’m ready for the wild turns this movie takes.
So, to set the scene, Gina (Sally Phillips) spends her mornings swimming in the ocean off the coast of Western Australia with her friends, which is the part of her life that gives her purpose. Her marriage to Adrian (Cameron Daddo) is loveless, and her boss, Gary (Ben Mortley), is more interested in her personal physical attributes than how good they are at her job. Knowing that she is in a bad place, her friends buy her a stripper named Tom (Alexander England) for her birthday. They just didn’t realize that the “premium package” meant that they had actually paid for a prostitute and not a stripper. Not wanting to cheat on her husband, Gina takes her “I can do whatever you want for two hours” to clean her house, which is the point at which she gets an idea for a new business.
Sally Phillips plays a middle-aged Gina who feels that she has become invisible to everyone, including, if not especially, her husband. We follow her on this journey of self-discovery as an entrepreneur and businesswoman, as well as being sexual with recognized and fulfilled desires.
Most people will remember Phillips from Bridget Jones’s Diary, but I’ll always remember her as Tilly in BBC’s Miranda (I still use the term “stand me” when I’m on the phone and someone is trying to talk to me). She makes such an understated impact as the lead here, from her comedic timing to her sexual frustration to her personal struggles, Phillips’ portrayal of a woman trying to be seen and heard is subtle yet effective.
At work, she faces dismissal, at home she also feels redundant in the life of her husband Adrian (Cameron Daddo), as he seems to have almost lost interest in sex and conversation.
Getting the job cheat sheet from her, one thing leads to another and she sets up a house cleaning service, staffed by handsome male cleaners, with benefits. Although, to be fair, the profit part isn’t exactly the first thing on our protagonist’s mind, however, when you have unruly types of people with “four-packs” for days, jackhammers, or awkward sex appeal, things they become a bit unpredictable for her. .
Which, in the long run, is more of a blessing than a curse and she ends up learning as much about herself as her new hires and her own circle of friends. Gina thinks she’s turned a struggling moving company into a cleaning company, only to discover that one of her employees, former stripper Tom (Alexander England), has also been providing sex along with the cleaning.