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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.
This is one of those movies that grows on you once the credits are
done. Quickly paced, sharply written and deftly acted, Venus is a movie
that unfolds so quickly that one is immersed in the action from the
The background is actors living off small pensions and acting jobs in working class London. The cinematography catches the dullness of the surroundings and one is easily transported into this world of sameness, peppered by occasional wonderful lapses back into the magic of acting and well written lines. Their world, and also the girl's world is turned upside down by meeting one another.
O'Toole is wonderful as Maurice, the ex-raconteur who proves that love, lust, flirtation and marvel are attributes that never go away with age. It's a delight to see these feelings rekindled in the old man, and O'Toole is the master of bringing zest and poignancy to the screen. Just going to see him quote Shakespeare is worth it alone. The setting in which he does it is unexpected and moving.
Jodie Whitaker is indeed a fresh new face. Without airs, this actress expertly matches wits with O'Toole. She conveys the right amount of grittiness, insecurity and bravado as a teenage girl thrust into the big city without a concrete plan would. The growth in her character takes place when an event that she has caused takes place, and she must either own up to what she has done, or forever be stuck in the life as a yob's girlfriend.
Vanessa Redgrave and all the others round out an honest cast that isn't afraid to let "Hollywood" see their age. This is acting "sans botox," and what a delight it is to see. This is smart writing, good thinking, and gutsy in a day when actors are expected to look a certain way even in old age. It's a delight, and trounces all stereotypes about aging.
There are lines here which are utterly breathtaking in their insight and playfulness. The writer is to be applauded for not falling back on the "senior citizen" stereotype. O'Toole's character swoons, he drinks in the quixotic experience of remembering the beauty of a naked body, of kissing a woman's neck, of the entire and total experience of falling in love, of pleasure, and of jealousy and of heartbreak as well. Young screenwriters should take note: write against type and delve into the real human experience, the one that everyone else tries to conveniently box away.
Why an 8, and not a 10? There were some choppy bits of editing. I would have liked to see even more growth and recognition in Maurice. Just a bit more from the writers would've brought it all the way home with the same aplomb given by O'Toole. But overall, a movie worth seeing, a performance worth rewarding. Bravo! Well done. Applause for Mr. O'Toole.
Peter O'Toole, as a great actor, has a certain transcendent charisma
that has not diminished with age. It is well worth it to see this movie
just for him. The life affirming message implicit in his brilliance
preserved in old age goes well with the main theme of the film itself,
which is the perseverance of vitality in the elderly.
The movie is a black comedy, and achieves both the blackness and the comedy perfectly. A scene where O'Toole accidentally barges into a room where his young love interest is modeling nude (while trying to spy on her)is especially hilarious. And his attempts to deal with catheter troubles are darkly hilarious. The movie is a poignant portrait of old age and an uplifting story of young love.
I, like most people, thought twice about spending a good few hours of my life watching an old man fall in love with a teenager, but my respect for O'Toole and a free ticket voucher at the Denver Film Festival were more than enough to motivate me to see the film. Had I not gone, I would have made a serious mistake. O'Toole's performance is as good as anything he's done, and the whispers about Oscars might just have something behind them. Somehow, Roger Michell directed this film so beautifully that nothing that occurred between Maurie and Jessie seemed morally ambiguous whatsoever. Maybe it was the pairing of scenes with poppy Corinne Bailey Rae music that made it seem so natural, but I strongly suspect otherwise. O'Toole, paired with a beautiful performance by virtual unknown Jodie Whittaker, takes us into a world that disregards social boundaries and replaces them with raw human emotion and understanding. Though O'Toole's performance captivates the Oscar attention of anyone who sees the film, the supporting role played by Leslie Phillips was essential to the film's success. The relationship between Phillips and O'Toole's character had the entire theater laughing just seconds into the film. Overall, a cast of entirely endearing characters and knockout performances by O'Toole, Phillips, and Whittaker make Venus one of the best films I've seen in 2006.
There is poetry to Peter O'Toole's performance in "Venus"; it is so effortless, so seamless, so beyond "acting" that it tempts the rest of us to give up and hand in our union cards. No actor in memory has so finely embraced with voice Shakespeare's "Shall I compare thee to a summers day...". This is as fine a vintage as you'll ever find! Perfection. Roger Michell delivers a superb cast all around. Jodie Whitaker hands in a lovely nuanced performance, especially for a newcomer. Together with O'Toole, Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths present a marvelous portrait of aging actors. Michell deftly makes us laugh at some things simply because it hurts too much to weep. This is such a beautifully layered and rich film one may want to revisit it time and again.
More Mother than Notting Hill. Peter O'Toole is brilliant -- creepy, lovable, objectionable and yet so vulnerable as the aging, forgotten actor in this "kind of makes you squirm in your seat" love/obsession story. I viewed it at the closing night of the Chicago International Film Festival. The tone and feel of the film places you squarely in Maurice's (O'Toole) gloomy, last chapter of life journey as well as Jesse's (Jodie Whittiker) bratty, just getting her own life started journey. Outstanding cinematography, score and music. Wonderfully haunting! V. Redgrave is terrific and beautiful. Oscar's all around for this funny, sometimes creepy, real look at two people finding each other at the most unexpected time in their lives.
If Peter O'Toole's mesmerizing, fearless, and endearing performance was
the only positive aspect of Venus, it would still be well worth seeing.
I was pleasantly surprised that the sharp wit and general delightfulness promised by the theatrical trailer for this film delivered the goods.
Like the critically acclaimed and popular film from 2004, Sideways, this well-written bittersweet comedy celebrates what is means to be fully human by presenting us with complex, flawed characters who don't always behave the way they should- and our hearts end up bleeding for them as much when they're bad as when they're good.
With the simple story line about an aging British stage actor who develops an "interest" in his best friend's great niece, Venus artfully widens into a realistic exploration of how different relationships in our lives fulfill some needs, but not all, and how aging threatens aspects of our identity, but leaves other core pieces intact.
The scenes with "Maurice" and his actor friends are absolutely delightful and perfectly executed. The two wonderful scenes between "Maurice" and his estranged wife (a marvel of a performance by Vanessa Redgrave) are both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
The core of the story- the not-so-kosher, yet not-nearly-as-revolting as-you-might-think relationship between "Maurice" and "Jessie" (an impressive Jodie Whitaker) avoids all clichés and predictability found in Hollywood movies, and presents the viewers with a believable, engrossing slice of life, and fully invests them with an emotional stake in these characters' outcomes.
Venus is an expertly acted, beautifully written little gem that hopefully will not get lost among the more hyped (and over-blown) late year offerings. If The Academy decides to reward Mr. O'Toole with an Oscar for this performance, it will be one that is well deserved and won't be dismissed as "the sentimental choice." Treat yourself to the best adult comedy of 2006, and one of the best performances of the year.
A feel good movie that still leaves you feeling like you need a shower. Some uncomfortable scenes and a few directorial flaws (a speedy montage during a trip to the shore is particularly out of place) don't detract from solid acting from the cast as a whole and a brilliant performance by Peter O'Toole in particular. This strange take on the Pygmalion story is well supported by Jodie Wittaker as the title character and Leslie Phillips as the friend that everyone needs to either accompany you or drive you to the grave. But it is O'Toole's performance that makes this movie worth the price of a ticket. If he doesn't finally win an Oscar for this I might have to start fund-raising to buy him one.
Peter O'Toole is one of my favorite actors and it's always been sad for me to think of him dying off without an Oscar. He's given great performances and my favorite is The Lion in Winter (for which he SHOULD have won). However, Venus has proved to be what is possibly his last chance at getting an Oscar. He is just wonderful in all his scenes. The film is very lovely, sweet, charming and funny. Jodie Whittaker is just lovely and a very talented upstart. However, if any other character deserved an Oscar, or a nomination, it is the great Vanessa Redgrave who has stood firm in being a great talent and hasn't even started to fade away like O'Toole almost did. Her scenes aren't that big but she leaves a lasting impression. She still looks beautiful at 69 and she still shows the same display of emotion as she did in her star making breakout role as Rosalind in "As You Like It" to her recent released film "The White Countess". She and O'Toole play off each other very well. This is a wonderful first film for them. See the movie, I know you'll enjoy it.
Peter O'Toole is considered by many to be the "best actor in the
world". And he has been for many decades. Those aren't my words but the
words of Anthony Hopkins. Russell Crowe and Martin Scorsese agree. And
he is fantastic in this small country independent film. I have seen all
of his films and this one along with The Manor ranks among the best. In
both, he exhibits the phenomenal wit and timing of a master and knows
more about delivering a punchline than anyone I have ever seen. And
just listening to his booming voice always keeps everyone honest. In
both this film and THE MANOR in which he plays Greta Scacchi's husband,
he is a magnet for your attention and your eyes. He totally dominates.
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