How to Please a Woman – movie review

What do women want? Writer/director Renee Webster explores the question in her debut feature film How To Please A Woman. Webster has worked extensively in television on series like The Heights.

Gina (Sally Phillips) is a middle-aged woman stuck in a loveless marriage. Her husband Adrian (Cameron Daddo) is a stuffy workaholic attorney who has lost all interest in sex and romance. Gina and her small circle of friends regularly gather for early morning swims on the beach and to exchange gossip. But then on her fiftieth birthday, her life takes a strange turn after her girlfriends gift her a male stripper. Rather than take advantage of the handsome and hunky Tom (Andrew England) and his offer of a passionate encounter, she gets him to clean her house, albeit shirtless.

When Gina’s smarmy manager (Ben Mortley) makes her redundant in a “restructure”, she recognises a unique business opportunity to transform the removalist company that Tom also works for. The company is on the verge of bankruptcy, but Gina decides to reinvent it as an all-male house cleaning service business. However, the prospective female clientele also demand a little extra “service” along with the house cleaning.

With the help of the firm’s manager Steve (Erik Thomson), Gina restructures the company, redesigns its website, and instructs its three employees including Tom, Anthony (Ryan Johnson) and Ben (Josh Thompson) on how to deliver the extra services. Soon word begins to spread about Gina’s business venture and it becomes a success, but it also causes some problems.

Despite the salacious and somewhat suggestive title, for the most part Webster eschews too much explicit detail. This is a sex comedy and there’s enough raunch to satisfy the target demographic though. While not a laugh-out-loud comedy, Webster injects some humour, with the standout sequence involving a remote-controlled sex toy that tickles more than the funny bone.

The film is a polemic on female empowerment and it explores its themes in broad fashion. But it seems to ignore the broader implications of the legalities surrounding sex work, which forms a major part of the film’s plot. Some of the characterisation is pretty sketchy too and some aspects remain underwritten. Phillips (the Bridget Jones trilogy) is the driving force of the film, and she delivers a solid performance that runs the gamut of emotions as she embarks on her voyage of self-discovery and sexual awakening. The women here all have that lived in look which adds a touch of verisimilitude to the material. And Thomson (Packed to the Rafters) is charming enough as Steve.

The film boasts some nice production design from Emma Fletcher. The film was shot on location in Perth and its environs, and Ben Nott’s cinematography captures some beautiful vistas of the Perth seascapes. But this is tonally uneven and a bit episodic in nature. It seems a bit rushed, especially with its busy third act which seems in a hurry to tie up the various narrative strands and find the requisite happy ending.

How To Please A Woman will certainly please its target demographic.

Greg King

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