The world of sensuality and sexuality, especially in older people, can sometimes be a taboo subject but Perth film producer Tania Chambers and her team have approached it with humour and goodwill for their new film How to Please a Woman.
The film, made around Fremantle and Port and Leighton beaches, tells the story of Gina (Sally Phillips) about to turn 50 and not feeling fabulous. She has lost her job and feels stuck and frustrated in a loveless marriage.
That is, until she is met with the ground-breaking business opportunity of converting a team of well-built moving guys into well-built house cleaners. At first, the response from her ocean-swimming community is immediate and her all-male cleaning staff prove a hit.
But as business booms, Gina’s clientele demand something more – sex, or better yet, pleasure. Things develop from there with humorous, sometimes poignant, results.
The big cast includes Phillips, Erik Thomson, Alexander England, Ryan Johnson, Caroline Brazier, Josh Thomson, Hayley McElhinney, Tasma Walton and Cameron Daddo.
The idea for the movie was inspired by the true story of an Australian company that offered sexual services exclusively for women. When writer-director Renee Webster spoke to the founders she found the ideal mix of drama and humanity and the idea for her debut feature film.
“We basically wanted to explore sensuality and sexuality at an older age but also at any age and any gender and look at how people communicate with each other,” Tania tells Have a Go News. “This is a film that we have promoted to an older female audience but we wanted men and others to enjoy it.
“Renee Webster as writer and director has such a beautiful way of looking at characters and issues. I tried to work with her for 25 years and we finally reached a point where we could finance this film together, working on the script in 2016.
“We filmed around April last year mostly in Fremantle, at Leighton beach and its change rooms, the beautiful Port beach and in houses around Fremantle with people allowing us into their homes. For a couple of shots we had a crane take the camera up for scenes and when I see this on the big screen it just gives me a chill, they are so lovely.
“The cast includes Sally Phillips from the UK, well known from the Bridget Jones Diary series as one of Bridget’s two girlfriends (Bridget, played by Renee Zellweger). But what we loved is the fact there are many women actors here and we could use so many.
“Renee Webster, fellow producer Judi Levine and I all love the water and the beach; Renee is an ocean swimmer and I’m a Cottesloe ‘bobber’ as I call it. I wanted to celebrate that special friendship between women when you go through thick and thin with each other and you pull each other into line at times and keep each other sane.
“But there is also the joy of water and celebrating the ocean, the change rooms. We have seen many men’s change rooms around the world but not the beautiful banter between women in change rooms, with some being terribly coy and covering up and those throwing it all to the wind.”
Tania, who is a member of Screen Australia’s Gender Matters task force, says women are still taking time to realise their full potential.
“I have just turned 60 and it is still so hard for women to just get basic opportunity, equality and equal pay. We don’t have enough female cinematographers, grips and gaffers but we had pretty much a 50–50 crew which worked out beautifully for this film.
“You watch Gina’s character in the film evolve and grow. She is someone who has been quite mousey; never spoken up for what she wants. She gradually gets the confidence to say what she is thinking and actually act on what she wants to do.”
Tania says she loves movies like Shirley Valentine when Shirley casts off her inhibitions, Calendar Girls and The Sessions.
“I’m hoping to see more films like that.”
Her next project is a television series in Geraldton from the book Invisible
Boys by Holden Sheppard, about a group of young gay men finding their tribe. She is also making a film, Angry Underwear, inspired by WA artist Tania Ferrier based on the true story of the artist creating underwear with attitude in New York in the 1980s.
How To Please a Woman is now showing.