A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Perseverance and courage are shown when turning setbacks into opportunities. The empowerment and sexuality of women -- of all ages -- is celebrated. Curiosity in trying new things. Teamwork is shown when setting up a new business. Making the most of life and not settling for things just because it might be easier. Real intimacy requires listening and good communication. Body positivity. Some breaking of the law when a cleaning business also provides a sex escort service. Although a lighthearted comedy, the sanitized portrayal of sex workers could arguably undermine some of the serious issues within the industry. Some infidelity.
Positive Role Models
Gina is a hardworking 50-something-year-old woman who is taken for granted by both her husband, Adrian, and her male boss. When she loses her job, she turns a struggling removal comply into a successful cleaning and escort service for women. Her employees are keen to learn and are determined to make their clients satisfied, be that with their cleaning or in the bedroom. This in turn helps them to grow as men. Gina's female friends, many of whom become her clients, learn to express themselves better and to own their sexuality.
The majority of the characters are White and Australian with the exception of the lead character, who is British, and some biracial supporting characters. There is good gender balance, although it's the women -- most of whom are in their 50s -- that take center stage with their needs, sexual desires, anxieties, and emotional wellbeing all core to the story. All of which helps challenge outdated and cliched stereotypes of how women should behave. The movie was also written and directed by women. A male character is called out for assuming that a character's nice house is down to her husband having a good job, rather than her. Numerous body types are shown, often intimately, and there are multiple references to the differences between women. Some LGBTQ+ representation, which is played without fanfare or tokenism.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Plenty of discussions about sex including reference to orgasms, porn, penis size, oral sex, and sexual desires. Two characters are shown having sex on two occasions -- it's non-graphic, with no nudity, and is played for laughs. Characters work as sex workers. Characters strip and clean houses shirtless. Some nudity -- including breasts and bottoms -- in a changing room. Kissing. Characters are shown lying together after sex. A character is seen naked from behind and then covers their genitals with an oven glove. A character is given a vibrator, which they use in another scene -- it's controlled remotely by another character -- to achieve multiple orgasms. A close-up of character's bottom while they are wearing a swimming costume. A character makes a sexual advance on their spouse, but are rejected.
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Language used includes "bastards," "wee," "piss off," "s--t," "s--ting," "d--kheads," and variants of "f--k." "God forbid" used as an exclamation. Local sexual slang terms used, such as "shags" and "rooting."
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Products & Purchases
An insolvent company is purchased. A character hands over a bundle of cash in an envelope to their pregnant ex. A number of references to money, usually in the context of how expensive something is. Character gives their partner some vouchers for their birthday, but the suggestion is that no thought has gone into it. A scene takes place in a glamorous home that belongs to one of the characters.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several scenes involving drinking, but no drunkenness depicted. A character asks another if they "want to get drunk?" Celebratory drinks lead to a character referencing being hungover. Characters drink wine and beer in the home and at the beach. Two characters drink shots of tequila before engaging in sex. Passing reference to cocaine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that How to Please a Woman is an Australian comedy with multiple discussions about sex, along with nudity, and strong language. Sally Phillips stars as Gina Henderson, a 50-something-old woman who turns a struggling removal company into a successful cleaning and escort business for women. There are frank conversations about orgasms, sexual fantasies, oral sex, and more. In one scene, a remote controlled-vibrator is used to give Sally multiple orgasms. The nudity largely takes place in a women's changing room, with breasts and bottoms on display. Despite the sexual banter and innuendo, there are only two scenes involving intercourse, both of which are non-graphic and played for comedic effect. The movie celebrates the sexuality of women, with the message being that all women, no matter their age or relationship status, should be able to enjoy good sex. While this is clearly to the empowerment of the women, the fact that these men are sex workers -- and none of the issues associated with that industry are referenced -- may feel problematic to some. As well as plenty of sexual language, variants of "s--t" and "f--k" are also used. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
There's no doubt that this Australian comedy shines some positivity on a subject that is often overlooked or made the butt of lazy cliched jokes. How to Please a Woman celebrates women and more specifically, women's sexuality. The fact the women in question are all in their 40s and 50s makes it all the more refreshing. Despite being an Australian production, central character Gina is played by the British actor, Phillips, and it's through her that the film is at its most charming. Her comic timing is what one would expect from a seasoned comedy actor. But she's also allowed to show her dramatic side too. The scene in which Gina goes for an ocean swim after being rejected by her husband, Adrian (Cameron Daddo), is genuinely moving.
Unfortunately, while Gina feels like a fully fleshed out character, the rest of the cast feel underdeveloped. As a result, some of their decision-making feels unrealistic and rushed. This might be fine if the film was just about Gina's journey, but it's not. There's a whole list of characters whose lives are changed during the movie. Perhaps the story would have been a better fit for a TV series, allowing the characters beyond Gina to be more fully explored. The fact that How to Please a Woman is ultimately a movie about sex workers -- who also happen to clean -- may also prove problematic to some. While other films such as Good Luck to You, Leo Grande discuss the pros and cons of the sex work industry, here we are simply given a very sunny take where everyone is happy and no one feels exploited or used.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.