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Academy Award® nominee Peter OToole (2006 Best Actor) leads a powerful cast to deliver a charming and poignant portrayal of Maurice, an aging veteran actor who becomes absolutely taken with Jessie the grandniece of his closest friend. When Maurice tries to soften the petulant and provincial young girl with the benefit of his wisdom and London culture, their give-and-take surprises both Maurice and Jessie as they discover what they dont know about themselves. Featuring brilliant performances from a superb supporting cast, VENUS is a witty and wise celebration of how the greatest lessons in life can come from the most unlikely places.
Peter O'Toole adds another Great One to his list of indelible performances: as Maurice, a frail but defiantly horny London actor in his sunset, O'Toole lays bare his weathered face and sophisticated soul for a marvelous portrait of mortality. Maurice, who mostly hangs out counting pills and parsing obituaries with his fellow old-trouper Ian (Leslie Phillips), is roused to play Pygmalion one final time... not on stage, but in life, as Ian's gauche, callow niece (Jodie Whittaker) comes to live with her uncle. It would be very easy to turn this set-up into a heartwarming drama, but screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette) has never been one to warm hearts. Unless it's on his own terms. As Maurice takes his Venus under his frail wing and imparts a few old-school instructions to this junk-culture lass, Kureishi and director Roger Michell hit just the right notes of clumsiness, grace, and regret. Everybody's good in the film; Jodie Whittaker does nicely by the task of creating a rather ordinary young woman, and Vanessa Redgrave turns up as Maurice's patient, long-suffering ex (about whom there is nothing ordinary). But it's O'Toole's show, and the grand old actor gives a performance without a hint of grandness, except where it might fit. When he sighs a valedictory, "There really isn't anything else," you know a life's experiences and mistakes are distilled in the wisdom. --Robert Horton
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"Venus," however, is laced with laughter as well as tears, as when the two once-famous thespian friends make the rounds of their old London haunts, including a church with the memorial plaques to long-dead actors, such as Laurence Harvey. When Maurice notes that the church is running out of wall space for such commemorations, his friend Ian--played with equal professionalism by Leslie Phillips--tells him wistfully that "Ian" is a very short name. One of the most touching lines, though, comes when the two revisit their elegant Edwardian club--apparently frequented by actors--and Ian remarks that he loves coming to the place, because it reminds him so much of what he might have been.
The acting, as is to be expected from such a cast, which includes Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice's long-neglected but still-loved wife, is superb. Peter O'Toole has the remarkable ability to inflict a mortal wound to the heart with a mere look. The expression on his face hardly changes, but his inner passion is so heartfelt that he conveys his emotion effortlessly. O'Toole's performance demonstrates the bankruptcy of the Hollywood establishment, which has failed to acknowledge his artistry properly for these many years.
I also liked the fact that we got to see older people interacting with each other as friends and as former lovers. Far too often when we see elderly people in film, it is a caricature of old folk. But the older characters in this film...you got to see them in all their "regularness"....really no different than people half their age....they have the same insecurities, still act much the same way they did in their younger years...the only difference is that they now are dealing with failing bodies and death.
By the end of the film, I just had a lump in my throat. Truly a very poignant, touching film!
Peter O'Toole plays an actor who is way past his prime. Once a storied Thespian, he is now relegated to roles such as that of a corpse. He was also quite a Lady's Man in his time, but now his seductive prowess & power over women is stale. Physically, too, he is wearing down. He is in need of prostrate surgery and his body is basically falling apart beneath him.
When he meets his friend's niece (played nicely by Whittaker), he suddenly finds his sexual urges and romantic passions re-awakened. He projects & idealizes her into the image of Venus, Roman goddess of Love, as she appears in a famous painting. Jodie Whittaker has an unconventional, demure beauty that is perfect for her role as the young siren.
The story tells of how the 2 people try to manipulate each other towards their own ends. He wants small non-sexual favors, and in return she wants him to buy her stuff. Out of this they somehow form a genuine (albeit awkward?) friendship.
For those who have seen LOST IN TRANSLATION and / or SHOPGIRL, those films will likely be a good indicator as to how much (or little?) you will like this movie. One thing that must be acknowledged is that this is a little more "extreme" in its view of the older man / much younger girl. O'Toole is in his Golden Years while Jodie Whittaker is literally barely out of high school. Some may find this a bit vulger, but for those who stick around for the whole story, they will find a certain elegance in watching the Venus on the screen transforming into the vision of Venus in the painting.
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