How To Please A Woman, M. 107 minutes. 4 stars
Despite having enjoyed a scene-stealing support role in the Bridget Jones Diary films and having been a regular on a swathe of Brit comedies like Smack the Pony and Green Wing, British actress Sally Phillips isn't the household name she deserves to be.
Fans of the scorching American political comedy series Veep know her as the caustic and inappropriate Finnish Prime Minister Minna Hakkinen, delivering some of that show's funniest lines.
Phillips brings this comedic sensibility and panache to new Aussie independent comedy How to Please a Woman, delivered in a believable Aussie accent and with the weary sense of exhaustion of the overlooked and underestimated wife.
Gina (Sally Phillips) has spent much of her many years married to Adrian (Cameron Daddo) in the role of supportive wife, though it has been some time since he has noticed or touched her.
When she is let go of a job that doesn't recognise her worth, she takes over a failing removalist business, and inherits its handful of employees, the dependable older Steve (Erik Thomson), the goofy Ben (Josh Thomson), and a pair of handsome but aimless lads Tom (Alexander England) and Anthony (Ryan Johnson).
Gina strikes on a novel business idea - that women would pay to see a man pick up a dust cloth or vacuum and clean their houses, for once.
But a misunderstanding opens up a whole new avenue to the business, with the company promising an orgasm with every house clean.
The new business model isn't without its challenges, including Gina needing to get her handsome young male employees a bit of training in, as the films name suggests, approaching their between-the-sheets work in a fashion meant for the woman's pleasure.
Gina ropes in a handful of her buddies to train the boys up, something they're only too happy to help out with.
This is the big screen debut for writer-director Renee Webster whose work includes the ABC series The Heights.
The idea for the screenplay was sparked from a news story of a real-life company offering sexual services for women, and whose proprietors described themselves as housewives, not Madams.
Webster makes a lot of points in her screenplay and does so quite subtly.
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The film's main story line, the evolution of a company into one offering sex work, offers rich fuel for physical comedy, but the sex work element is treated respectfully for both the work and the workers involved.
Alexander England and Ryan Johnson enjoy the lion's share of the physical comedy as their characters learn a new world of intimacy and that the work isn't just emulating scenes from Magic Mike or The Full Monty.
Erik Thomson, so familiar to audiences from Packed to the Rafters, has a nuanced role as the dispatch officer who eats his feelings, and he and Phillips enjoy the film's funniest scene.
Cinematographer Ben Nott gets to work not only in a handful of charmingly rustic interior locations, but with the blues of the ocean and sky around Perth's lovely beaches.
Gina is an ocean swimmer, and it is lovely to see Nott's work in these environs, with the hint of Rottnest Island to be seen in the distance.
Note the film's M rating - despite the sex work story line, the producers never take the content beyond the comfort levels of the suburban cinema audience who will appreciate the laughs.
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