How to Please a Woman is an Australian comedy film, and we’ll stop right there because when it comes to films “comedy” doesn’t mean what it used to. For one thing, this isn’t very funny – and it’s not trying to be.
“Comedy” now, in films and increasingly everywhere else, basically means “not serious drama”. Jokes, quips, any real attempt at humour at all are no longer requirements. Obviously we wish we’d remembered this before rushing out to see How to Please a Woman, but we can’t sink the boot into an unfunny film when being funny was clearly never going to be on the cards.
After all, the film begins like this: when she finds herself downsized out of her job as a loss adjuster, Gina (Sally Phillips) goes around to her last client – a faltering removalist firm – and suggests a restructure. Hilarious!
But when the all-male cleaning firm she turns them into turns out to be more in demand for turning tricks for its middle-aged female clientele (though they still have to do a good job with the cleaning), Gina finds herself in what sounds like a wacky 70s-style sex romp but is actually a fairly sober and thoughtful look at female wants and desires.
Much like a comedy, this isn’t going for strict realism: this is a sunny West Australian world full of frustrated and horny middle-aged women (most of Gina’s clients come from her swimming group) and the young studs (notably decent bloke and part-time stripper Alexander England) willing to take the time to give them exactly what they need.
There are also a few middle aged men like Gina’s husband (Cameron Daddo), who has lost interest in sex and hang on a sec, isn’t this the basic premise of Married… With Children? If there wasn’t an episode where Peggy Bundy became a pimp complete with funky 70s-style wardrobe, somebody there was asleep at the wheel. Married… With Children ran for over 250 episodes!
(despite her clearly being a pimp, there is no scene in How to Please a Woman where Gina dresses like a pimp. Also absent from the film: Gina developing a pimp limp, Gina walking with a pimp stick, and Gina doling out the pimp slaps)
“What if we did a sex comedy but took it seriously and also didn’t show any sex” doesn’t exactly seem like a crowd-pleaser. But for the most part this is a warm-hearted film that takes the idea of middle aged women demanding decent sex and runs with it.
Sadly it doesn’t run anywhere funny or all that dramatic – just imagine a version with the genders reversed and you’ll realise this is a story that has smoothed off pretty much all the rough edges when it comes to the glamourous world of sex work – but at least its heart is in the right place.
Just maybe put in a few jokes next time.