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Maurice Russell, once a great actor, is now living in London in the twilight of his life. Those of his generation remember him fondly, while those in the younger generations have no idea who he is. He spends most of his time hanging out with his friends Ian, also an actor, and Donald, or visiting with his wife Valerie for who he has great affection but with who he no longer lives. His acting career is virtually over, he only taking roles on the odd occasion when he needs the money. Ian has decided to invite his young great-niece Jessie from the provinces to come and stay with him, basically to act as his caregiver in case he falls ill, but also to be his companion. He envisions listening to Bach with her and her cooking him food to which he is accustomed. Jessie's stay is nothing as he envisions. She doesn't know how to cook, she drinks all his alcohol, and she has unrealistic visions of what she will accomplish in her life. Maurice, however, sees in Jessie, a person who can help him ... Written by
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Venus. You look like a movie star.
[kisses her neck]
Is there an old man odor?
Not so much this evening.
I wonder why.
You can kiss my shoulders.
Three kisses. Three, I said! And no licking and burping, you dirty, filthy, little shithead.
Oh, you please me.
And you me.
[...] See more »
I strongly suspect that Peter O'Toole, in his new film "Venus," plays a character not far removed from himself. This may prevent his performance from joining the ranks of some of his greatest cinematic achievements, since it probably didn't provide as much of a challenge to him, but that's not to say that he isn't marvelous in this film, and shouldn't be commended for taking on this brave and unflattering role so late in his career.
In "Venus," O'Toole plays Maurice, a famous stage and screen actor pushing 90, who's struggling mightily to prevent his days from slipping into the routine loneliness of old age. He's on friendly terms with his wife (Vanessa Redgrave, who has a couple of wonderful moments in this film), who he walked out on years ago, but never sees his children, who haven't forgiven their father for deserting them. The time he doesn't spend at doctors' offices or willing himself to get out of bed every morning he spends with his cantankerous best friend, a fellow actor, reminiscing about their best roles.
When the friend takes in his niece's sullen daughter as a live-in assistant, O'Toole immediately finds himself in love with her, or at least in love with the idea of her, and the two strike up an awkward, and at times most uncomfortable relationship of sorts.
What distinguishes "Venus" from other stories like it is the nature of the central relationship. This is no sweet, chaste friendship a la "Lost in Translation." For one, the age difference here is much greater. But beyond that, the relationship between Maurice and his Venus is distinctly sexual. It's clear that Maurice would go as far as Venus will allow, which isn't far, but is far enough to have made me squirm a bit in my seat at moments. For her part, Venus uses her beauty, and her knowledge of Maurice's desire for her, to her advantage, receiving gifts in return for her "favors." The film establishes both Maurice and Venus as somewhat unsympathetic characters, which prevents the film from becoming too maudlin. But there's also a great reserve of kindness in both of them, and each enables that to come out in the other. In the end, each of these characters is a bit better off for having known the other.
"Venus" is slow moving, and it's not a profound film. But it is refreshingly free of pretense, and it provides one with the chance to see Peter O'Toole, one of my favorite actors, showing the world that he's still got it after all these years.
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