Sprinkled with subversive undertones and provocative messages, How to Please a Woman takes pride in its natural use of comedy with a surprisingly charming component. On the surface, it may toy with your moral compass but underneath, the moral is noble.
How to Please a Woman follows Gina (Sally Phillips) dealing with difficult situations as she loses her job and her marriage is completely dull and soulless. In an attempt to turn things around, she starts up a secret male escort service disguised as an all-male cleaning business.
Yeah, that is literally the plot of the film and based on that premise, it may sound like the film is going to be obscene or distasteful. On the contrary, director and screenwriter Renée Webster keeps the film sincere to the main character and interweaves the underlying thematics through that character. That’s not to say the ideas in the film are particularly impactful but keeping the focal point of the film being on Gina allows the far-fetched concept get too outrageous. The film celebrates the idea that it is never too late to take control of your life and it is okay to seek what you want in life. Sally Phillips’ performance is done with heartfelt honesty throughout it and has a neat talent to flow with the natural comedy of particular scenes. Phillips’ performance hangs high above the rest as she steals the show by being the only one to add a sense of substance to her acting.
Arguably the most surprising aspect of the film is the comedy writing of Webster and her ability to direct the actors in a way that makes it feel completely natural within the film. Writing comedy is particularly tough and integrating that within the far-fetched concepts in the film is even tougher. The way comedy moments play out in the film, it seems easy to make it feel forced or awkward but Webster’s writing naturally sets the moments up that results in audience laughter rather than a sea of grimacing faces. The direction of the actors in those moments is also key to establish such moments as the comedic timing is nicely executed and it feels like the actors really bounce off each other instinctively.
The film does lack direction on the technical side of filmmaking – as the film has a distinct lack of visual language. The composition of frames is captured with mostly static or panning shots on a wide angle lens. There are moments of a bird’s eye view drone shots that add some flavour from the opening but quite quickly, it turns to murky flat imagery. Taking place in West Australia, the film adds zero sense of location that may have helped elevate the atmosphere of the film – particularly the Mediterranean climate.
There is definitely a lot to enjoy about this film from its comedy to its sincere use of a crude concept but does it make it memorable or even, impactful? Not necessarily. The target demographic can get something meaningful from this but the narrow nature of its premise may prohibit this being a great film.