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How to Please a Woman

How to Please a Woman (Renée Webster, 2021) wr. Renée Webster, prod. Tania Chambers, Judi Levine, Feisty Dame & Such Much Films; Sally Phillips, Erik Thomson, Caroline Brazier, Tasma Walton, Hayley McElhinney, Roz Hammond, Cameron Daddo, Alexander England, Ryan Johnson, Josh Thomson, Myles Pollard; Fremantle; comedy
When her all-male house-cleaning business gets out of control, a mature woman must acknowledge her own appetite if she is to make a new life for herself.

This is advertised as a comedy – and one whose narrative is predictable: you know before you see it that it's about a woman who is going to end up being pleased. Along the way, therefore, it could have been funnier - as comedies usually (but not necessarily) are. But I think Webster thinks her specific First World Problem is so serious that it has to be ventilated in every scene, making some audience members feel that the film is sanctimonious and that they are being preached to rather then entertained and amused.

The three men who perform as strippers/prostitutes are obviously the funny turns, and they are OK – but each one only gets to do an act once, which takes up less than ten minutes of the nearly two hours. The rest of the film has women talking – mostly about (not) having satisfactory orgasms. Oh, except for the scene where we see, at some length, one actually having one. That scene was quite ... satisfactory. ('I'll have what's she's having.')

The target audience (women) does not include me, but I think the script could have been modified to have been a little more inclusive. Even though I knew where it had to go, I did not feel sure how it could get there. It felt like the situations were more risky than they turned out to be, given the celebratory finale.

It's a primitive, first-wave feminist tract, so the main character's husband can be told to 'fuck off' ... because he's a male character (without a life). And vive la révolution!

Despite Webster the writer, the performances are excellent, perhaps partly due to Webster the director. Caroline Brazier stands out, which is unfortunate for Sally Phillips, who could have been as courageous as her character but wasn't. (She's probably used to more subtlety in British scripts.) Hayley McElhinney is lovely - and Alexander England should go on to other good parts –  pity Thor is unavailable. Nicola Bartlett is very good in her tiny part, as is Monica Main.

References and Links

Frater, Patrick, 2021, 'Sally Phillips to star in How to Please a Woman Australian Comedy Drama, Variety, 11 April.

Pierce, Andrew F. 2022, 'How to Please a Woman: producers Judi Levine & Tania Chambers talk desexualising bodies, filming in Freo, and gender matters', The Curb, 4 May.


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