Venus (2006) Poster

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Acting Sans Botox
Cashmere Bookworm7 January 2007
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 very start.

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.
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O'Toole's Still Got It
evanston_dad22 October 2006
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.

Grade: B+
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Not What You'd Expect
danielbradcummings15 November 2006
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.
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O'Toole is poetry
Monicatidwell27 December 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.
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My "Sideways" of 2006
Margie2429 December 2006
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.
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Peter O'Toole falls in love with 20 year old
wiggumpd8 September 2006
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.
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An Oscar for O'Toole? Beautiful, yet tragic
Cathy-19320 October 2006
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.
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At last an Oscar or O'Toole?
skichalk18 September 2006
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.
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Peter O'Toole and Vanessa Redgrave still got it!
Louisville8811 November 2006
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.
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Peter O'Toole's best role since THE MANOR
nomoreblablabla9 November 2006
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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"There really isn't anything else"
gradyharp25 May 2007
And so reflects 70-something Maurice (Peter O'Toole) about the importance of beauty and searching for love as the only significant goals as life races by him. VENUS is a small miracle of a film written by Hanif Kureishi ('My Beautiful Laundrette') about the isolation and inner devastation of growing old in today's society. What could have been a morose, whining diatribe about the cruelties of advancing age and the manner in which we treat the elderly becomes a window into the psyche of older characters whose lives have meant something - if to no one else but themselves.

Three old thespian friends and colleagues (Maurice, Ian - Leslie Phillips and Donald - Richard Griffiths) spend there days reading obits, sharing pills and recalling the days of their acting glory. Maurice has not given up as he still performs as old characters in films and continues his lifelong libidinous longing for beautiful females. Ian fears death from hypertension and agrees to have his niece's daughter Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) move in to care for him. But the coarse, crude, and rude Jessie drives Ian to distraction and Ian seeks Maurice's aid in diverting Jessie's time to activity away from her home care service. The story thus opens the way to examine the needs and desires of both Maurice and the very young Jessie, each finding a sense of solace, friendship and a new kind of love despite their extreme age differences. Maurice continues to visit his ex-wife Valerie (Vanessa Redgrave) whenever he needs a connection to reality: these encounters speak more about the continuity of love once splintered than in almost any prior film.

In a story that could have focused on aged lechery and youthful opportunism this film, as directed by Roger Michell, instead elects to find the path toward beauty that underlines the needs of disparate people. The performance by O'Toole is staggeringly superb and the remainder of this small cast (Redgrave, Griffiths, Phillips - all long admired, seasoned pros - and Whittaker, a very promising new face) is top notch. The writing and directing and acting in this film is at the peak of excellence - there really isn't anything else. Grady Harp
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Excellent acting, unconvincing plot
hopek-15 February 2007
I came to this film with high expectations, having been led to believe that it dealt bravely and honestly with sexuality amongst old people. I found the acting excellent. However, the behaviour of the people in the film was frequently tawdry and exploitative. If a younger man had been shown behaving as did the character played by Peter O'Toole he would, I believe, have been recognised as the moral incompetent that he is. To expect us to sympathise with this, simply because he is old is a form of inverse ageism. The same applied to the responses of the so-called "friends" who, when he needed assistance when he was ill, were noticeable for their unwillingness to help. Again, these responses are not rendered acceptable because of the age of the characters concerned. If, on the other hand, we were supposed to find them all uncongenial - why bother at all? The transformation of the young women I found completely implausible on the evidence we were given. Disappointing.
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Everything I Want From A Movie & More!
TOM O'LEARY22 January 2007
I loved everything about this movie. Everything. I expected it to be like one of those creaky Jack Lemmon "actory" movies from the 70's when I read the rave reviews for Peter O'Toole. This movie is so much more than O'Toole's towering performance. And yes, he is towering. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie about people north of 70 which seemed truthful. I believed every one of these characters. The screenplay is the reason, of course. And the directing. And the acting. The scene in which Peter O'Toole kisses Vanessa Redgrave is the most heartrending scene in movies today. Two of the most gloriously beautiful actors allow themselves to truthfully appear as decrepit and yet lovely human beings. Bravo a thousand times.
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A master class in acting
Chris Knipp29 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Though Roger Mitchell directed the easy 1999 celebrity comedy Notting Hill, with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, he has done increasingly interesting things since. Three years ago he collaborated with writer Hanif Kuraishi, of My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, for a film that enters the same fearless territory as this new film, Venus: the land of age disparities in sex, of the bitter realities of decaying bodies and continuing desire. This was The Mother (2003), in which May (Anne Reed), a woman in her sixties, has a brief reviving affair with a thirty-something builder called Darren (Daniel Craig). The Mother's title points to the fact that May has grown children, and the film deals with the complexities of family and relationships.

Kuraishi brings the same fierce honesty about age and sexuality to Venus. This Kuraishi-Mitchell collaboration is destined for greater fame than the last, because happily it chooses to wrap itself around a great star, that same Peter O'Toole who 44 years ago became the unforgettable and luminous hero of David Lean's Laurence of Arabia.

At 74 O'Toole is Maurice, an actor living alone well past his prime, the ravages of age compounded in him by too much alcohol and too many cigarettes and the inward marking of a slow decline in roles. Maurice gave up long ago being anybody's husband or father. He lives alone. He and Ian (Leslie Phillips) and Donald (Richard Griffith) meet in a cheap restaurant where the older Ian, who's having short-term memory problems and beginning to have more trouble coping for himself, announces he's to have some relatives' young daughter, a girl from the provinces, coming up to London to live with him and serve as an un-uniformed nurse.

Perhaps Ian is Gielgud, only less successful and less elegant. Ian is lordly, a prima donna, whose delicate sensibilities can't abide an untutored member of the younger generations – and who therefore can't stand young Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) when she arrives.

Maurice can. She's ill-dressed and bad-mannered but she's fetching. Maurice sees that. He socializes with her, relates with her as a person; then as a man; then as an aging suitor. For a while, they have something to give each other. It ends unpleasantly. Then, for a moment, it revives and has one last beautiful moment. And it's over. Kuraishi tells this story as much as possible without sugar coating. Some moments are embarrassing and hard to watch. When sweetness comes, it's earned and surprises and touches.

Maurice hasn't got much of life to live. But he grabs what he can while he can. And he gives pleasure. That's all he ever wanted.

Maurice gets Jessie a job as an art class nude model – she wanted to do "modeling." Then he spies on her nakedness in the studio and falls in a doorway and knocks over an easel.

She likes him – he's nice to her – but she also re buffs him at times. She's a rude girl with low tastes but, when speaking of and to her, he recites Shakespeare's sonnet, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?/Thou art more lovely and more temperate…." She listens. When he sees her beautiful body, her skin, her eyes, her youth, her sex, and speaks of that, he makes her happy.

Maurice enters another theater – the operating kind – and has his prostate removed. He is impotent and wears a catheter. He can't perform any more. But he can touch and admire. He can desire. He has a small part in a costume film and hires a big limo to go to the shoot with Jessie – he calls her "Venus" now, comparing her to a painting – and he almost faints during the shoot. She gets him to pay for a snake tattoo on her hand and has a scrawny boyfriend (Bronson Webb) and they use Maurice's flat to have sex. He gets angry and kicks them out. There's a scuffle and he's knocked down and the kids run off. Later she comes back, find him, and calls 911. He's incapacitated. Out of shame, she volunteers to care for him. Sick as he is, he goes to the beach with her, where he grew up, and this is his last idyll.

There is bravery and intelligence in Kurashi's writing and O'Toole's acting, but the richness of this surprisingly complex little film is in the details, gestures, intonations that must be seen to be appreciated. Maurice has a wife (a wonderfully disheveled Vanessa Redgrave). He abandoned her long ago but their relationship is rueful and sweet. In their accomplished ease Redgrave's scenes with O'Toole are a master class in acting. It's had to imagine how two performers could be any better together than this. But it's the scenes between O'Toole and his Venus (Whittaker) that matter, with their honesty and awkward affection, without prettiness, without fakeness. Kuraishi may seem to try too hard to be raw, playing on the shock value of oldster's using four-letter-words, but this is a film, like The Mother, with the painful feel of real experience, expanded to the level of a great, sad open soul by the remarkable O'Toole.

The film ends with Ian and Donald in the cheap restaurant looking at Maurice's obituary. It's a good one – many columns, with a big picture of O'Toole when he was young. The waitress comes up and looks at the picture and says, "But he was gorgeous!" and Ian says, "Yes, he was gorgeous!" -- two of the most profoundly resonant lines in film this year.
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Decent attempt, but could have used more polishing before shooting
Ross3 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The story, subject matter and broad structure were admirable, but I felt strongly that the script could have used another revision or too... plus perhaps some guidance in a few spots.

The Shakespearean quotes were pretty cheesy - I mean "To be or not to be" and "Is this a dagger I see before me..." Please. "Can I compare thee to a summers day...." Okay that was well delivered, and not too bad. But otherwise it had a bit of a high-school writer feel with the other bits. Either an unsophisticated perspective on the part of the writer, or trying to pander to a viewer who wouldn't be part of the demographic for this story.

Other elements that were weak are the two scenes I expected from the first 30 seconds of getting the plot direction: the brash young punk in the old guy's apartment, and the death scene. I thought from the start - oh, please don't do those two, so predictable. A minor quibble with O'tooles apartment up against the subway track. That seemed so implausible as well, for the successful, life-long actor in his twilight years, living up a few flights of stairs against the train tracks. Right.

Finally the slapstick fall down, stumble into the art studio bit was a sad TV "Three's Company" bit.

Given the ham-fisted writing, and several spots where the writing didn't seem in character for our young Venus, there were other elements that worked well. The actors were first rate, and held together an otherwise weak script. Redgrave and O'Toole were strong, as was Venus (Whittaker). The latter was well cast, as were the aging stars.

I thought the symbolism of the scenery was strong - we see the workings of the city: trains, infrastructure, wires, roads in parallel to the workings of an aging body. In the apartments, we see clutter, cramped awkward spaces. Again, the baggage of many years, and the discomfort of aging bodies.

It was good to see a handling of the subject matter. People age on the outside much faster than they age on the inside. A woman is the most beautiful thing a man will ever see, says Maurice. "For a woman?" asks Jessie - "A baby," he says.
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A vile, sad film.
davmand@btinternet.com29 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
After over 50 years of watching films this offering represents a low point in film 'entertainment.' This film has been hyped as a feel good comedy but the positive ending to the film is that the leading lady has learned how to cook fish and that she is now happy to pose in the nude at an art class. Hurray! Those messages will warm me through any problems life throws at me.

The script is dreadful. Imagine a class of 15 year old doing a drama project at school. 'Can we use swearing, Miss?' 'Of course, if it is essential and you all promise not to tell anyone outside the classroom.' There follows as many 'f**ks' and 'c**ts' as possible. This contrasts with O'Toole reciting lines from the Bard while he sits outside the bathroom door. The scene where Venus 'does something nice' for O'Toole and allows him to sniff her finger is degrading and sad to see from Peter O'Toole.

The theatre had around a dozen in the audience and three of them walked out before the end. I had taken my wife, my sister and my niece and was devastated to have subjected them to this effort.

Our previous film was Pan's Labyrynth. Light years away.

At least Nacho Libre knows what it is.
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'For Most Men, A Woman's Body Is The Most Beautiful Thing They Will Ever See. For A Woman, It's Her 1st Child'
Chrysanthepop10 August 2008
Michell tells an unconventional story of an aged actor who's fallen for a very young lady. What makes this story different from other old v/s young love stories is that the relationship is very sexual in nature. Maurice clearly sees Jessie as a very sexual being and he would definitely go far enough if she had allowed it. Yet, Jessie herself isn't completely innocent. She is completely aware of his feelings and takes advantage of it. While this part of their relationship is uncomfortable to watch, there is another side to it. Maurice clearly is infatuated with this girl but he never forces himself on her. On the one hand his despair is understandable as he's a man in the last stage of his life. He's maintained a friendly relationship with his estranged wife but his children won't have anything to do with him. He chats with his friends at a café. The only roles offered to him are those of corpses. While he struggles getting up from bed to live his miserably lonely life, it is the entrance of Jessie that changes that. She's young. She's attractive. She's vibrant (though a little tempered). The young Jessie isn't evil either. She too enjoys Maurice's company. Perhaps her feelings towards him were part sympathy part affection. Though both characters are initially portrayed in an unsympathetic way, they manage to build a bridge that connects to the viewer.

Hanif Kureishi is known for telling stories about unconventional relationships and here too he does a good job. It is well paced. Some might find it slow but I think it works for this kind of film. The dialogues are solid, both funny, poetic and get you to say 'hmm!'. Also the comedic situations are well executed like the one where Maurice and Jessie go shopping and Maurice only offers to pay 20. The cinematography and score do a good job of demonstrating the loneliness, dullness and somewhat carelessness of London. Meanwhile Corinne Bailey Rae's soothing voice highlight the gentle songs.

Peter O'Toole delivers a marvelous performance. I'm glad to see that actors like him and Vanessa Redgrave do not shy away from playing such roles of elderly people. He is charming, kind, passionate (with Venus), somewhat appalling and sympathetic. Redgrave has two scenes of which she does nothing short of greatness. Confidant newcomer Jodie Whitaker more than just holding her own to veteran O'Toole. She adds a freshness and displays Jessie's growth with great confidence. Leslie Phillips too does a fine job as Maurice's friend. He's particularly funny in the scenes where he expresses his dislike for Jessie.

'Venus' is a refreshing, sincere little film sans pretense. It's got wonderful performances, intriguing characters, solid dialogue and an unusual story.
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An Absolutely Perfect Gem of a Movie
Venge3 September 2009
Seldom have a finished watching a movie with such a feeling of sadness mingled with joy. This film really connects with its subject matter in a way few films do. Superlative acting, a great script, and a touching story. Peter O'Toole acts better with just his voice then most actors can with the entire screen to work with. Jodie Whittaker was incredible in this her first big part, captivating the screen with both her youth and beauty, as well as her fragile and vulnerable ego. All in all, this was one of the finest and bravest films I have viewed in a very long time.

The story, filmed in parts of London that I have never seen on screen, was wonderfully filmed. The cast of veteran actors including Leslie Phillips, Richard Griffiths and Vanessa Redgrave, work together like the natural lifelong friends. It is the chemistry between O'Toole and Whittaker, however, that really sets this film apart. The veteran and the young fledgling really light up the screen with such a tenderness and hunger, both wanting what they other has to offer, and giving what they can to see that happen. Treat yourself to this movie, you won't be disappointed.
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Overburdened with obscenity and without a trace of authenticity
frebo33 March 2007
One of the several sad things about the so-called comedy-drama "Venus" is that Peter O'Toole (as Maurice, a cadaverous and pedophiliac dirty old actor) gives the world a definitive portrait of a character to whom the description "looks like death chewin' on a cracker" might be applied – albeit while chewing on the appendages of a young laddette of ill-defined character played by Jodie Whittaker.

While the broad intended themes of "Venus" seem to be May-December romantic attraction; the Pygmalion-like uplifting of a downhearted young woman by a caring mentor; the nature of mature love; the healing effects of time; and the eternal nature of eros – the finished work seems disjointed and populated by poorly developed characters behaving oddly.

A horrid and distasteful mish-mash of bad intentions gone worse, the script is the product of Hanif Kureishi, the Anglo-Pakistani boomer (born in 1954) and "cult-novelist" whose oeuvre - largely characterized by a broad spectrum of explicit sexual activity - runs the gamut from interracial gay love story (My Beautiful Laundrette) through the reportedly autobiographical tale of a man who leaves his wife and children (Intimacy) in favor of an anonymous fellatrice (live, on camera!), to more recent work exploring trans-generational sexual attraction (The Mother – between a woman in her 70s and her thirty-something lover – and Venus – thankfully avoiding any explicit sex between a 70-something man who is near death's door and the rather ill-defined young woman in her 20s in whom he takes a prurient interest.) As one in the eighth decade of his life, I can assure others that Mr Kureishi offers no meaningful insight into the nature of aging, the aged, or their sensuality. The actors do a workmanlike job of trying to breathe life into an abysmal script (act, Peter, act!) – but the lighting is Stygian, the screenplay improbable, the continuity irregular and the dialog – other than the gratuitous obscenities - forgettable.

In sum, Venus is an abysmal melange wherein "Lost in Translation" meets "My Fair Lady", with a heavy dose of Mr. Chips as played by Claire Quilty.

If you're looking for fascinating insight into the nature of love, sexuality and redemption as written by a brilliant British author go see Edward Norton in the current production of the "The Painted Veil", adapted from Somerset Maugham's story.

For an overblown exercise in geriatric farce – overburdened with obscenity and without a trace of authenticity – see "Venus".
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The End of One Life and the Beginning of Another
A lot of people were offended by the idea of an old man slavering over a young girl. I guess it is pretty offensive when stated baldly like that, but that's the danger is stating things simply about people and life. The story is about a young woman who meets an old man who still finds women interesting and attractive, even though there is nothing he can do about it. At least, there is nothing he can do about it physically. He can be charming and entertaining. He can introduce her to a larger world. He can make her understand that there is much more about life than she ever dreamed there could be. The phrase "celebration of life" is a tiresome cliché but there is no other way to categorize this film. Well, maybe is shouldn't be categorized, just as life itself should not be categorized. It should just be experienced, and you take out of it whatever you can get.
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A fine film, even if you watch with some discomfort
didi-530 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Before seeing this I avoided reading reviews and had seen one trailer, which gave a flavour of what the film would be like. But - I am a great fan of Peter O'Toole, and of course did not want to miss what has been mooted as the best role of his twilight years, and certainly his first leading role in a film since 'My Favorite Year'.

Here O'Toole plays Maurice Russell, an ageing actor who has had past successes (we see his wife watching an old movie of his on TV) but is now playing corpses in hospital dramas or ageing roués in costume drama (O'Toole himself played the old Casanova on TV recently). Maurice is on his last legs, impotent and incontinent after a prostrate op, but finds some solace in the great-niece of his fellow thespian, Ian (played with aplomb by Leslie Phillips). Jodie Whittaker plays this girl, Jessie, Maurice's 'Venus', with some skill - it cannot have been an easy role and I believe she is something of a newcomer.

The best moments however for me were not the relationship between Maurice and Jessie - that, because of the huge age gap, was funny at times, poignant at others, and plain distasteful at some points (I felt his attraction to her could have been treated with more sensitivity, although audience sympathy does go with him and not with her) - but rather his scenes with Ian, and with his estranged wife (Vanessa Redgrave, excellent as ever). Here there are scenes of friendship, of life affirmation, of tenderness, that cannot even be approached in the slightly seedy 'theroretical' interest Maurice has in Jessie.

Does O'Toole deserve his recent Oscar nomination for this role? Absolutely. He dominates the film with ease and, even frail, elderly, and ravaged, there are flashes of the vibrant blue-eyed heart-throb who wowed the screens in the likes of 'Laurence of Arabia'. Interestingly, once Maurice has died (as we know he must), his friends peer over his Guardian obit, jealously noting the number of columns he's got, and show an old photo to the café waitress - not the best vintage O'Toole photo they could have got, but enough to show that Maurice had a life before old age got him. And whether Maurice is frustrated with his age 'Come on, old man!' he chides himself, or regretful with the passing of time and his libido (either with his wife or with Jessie), dancing with Ian in the actor's church, or having his last paddle in the freezing sea, O'Toole is never anything less than mesmerising, and that is the mark of a true actor.

I imagine this film will grow with repeated viewings. The script has a few profanities (it was amusing hearing Leslie Phillips utter the f word) but is largely literate as you would expect from Hanif Kureshi, who last wrote 'The Mother' for the screen (where Anne Reid and Daniel Craig had a rather more physical relationship - which would have been totally wrong in every respect for 'Venus'). The music is perfectly suited to the film and works extremely well.

In all, a good effort. And in places extremely funny - but it is the two old men dancing which you will remember, and this was rightly the image carried by the film festivals which first presented this charming and unusual film.
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Venus has a nostalgic perspective and shows old ages successfully.
Baris Saydam10 April 2007
I watched Venus in Istanbul Film Festival. Venus is not the funniest or the most impressive movie about old age, I've ever seen. However, I think the director's intention is not that. Obviously Venus has a nostalgic perspective and shows old ages successfully; however, Venus joins old and new. When Maurice meets Jessie, Maurice again finds beauty in the goddess Venus. After that Maurice is rejuvenated. At the same time, Maurice feels the breath of death on him. Perhaps, he had a great wish for being immortal, he realizes that it's impossible. This scene is the one of the most tragic scenes of the movie. Mostly the humour is effective, although we always feel melancholy. The places which the director chose and the dark colours that he used in the film stand out. In addition, Peter O'Toole's (Maurice) acting is marvelous. As a result, if you haven't great expectations Venus, you can experience different feelings about this movie.

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Bad Taste
wperetiatko18 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Venus is a dreadful piece of trash that strips Peter O' Toole of any remaining dignity except for going out as an old age porno star -- if there is any dignity implied in that -- and there just may be with the postmodern directorial sentiments of urban schlock and shock value writ large across the screen. From the sublime to the ridiculous, from Shakespeare to foul mouth swearing, from Venus -- love of the mind, not the eye -- to the total fixation on the body, from prostitution to more prostitution, this movie does not let up. In the end, old age delivers on bad taste.

The movie is about a shallow old lech of an actor who is taken up by the physical beauty of a young woman. He is a hedonist who can quote Shakespeare but not understand the lines he recites. Peter O'Toole plays the dirty old man who has nothing to say to the soul of a young woman: a superficial narcissist who has dumped his wife, swears a lot and is left with nothing but a young woman who prostitutes herself to him. Touching and that is what he is allowed to do to her. Peter O' Toole will go out in a pathetic splendor if Hollywood gives him an Oscar for this crap.

The most disturbing aspect of this movie is allowing a 14-year old to watch it. It was rated 14a and there are many disturbing scenes that are not fit for minors.
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Creepy and shallow with a side of heart...
D A13 May 2007
This immature slice of geriatric epiphany was largely overrated when it came out, mainly due to the lead being film legend Peter O'Toole. Critics, and even the Academy awards, must have mistook this manipulative and silly little tale for something entirely greater. While Venus does have some potent themes which deal in lust and mortality, Hanif Kureishi's script is just too showy for any real effect to take hold. His plot revolves around O'Toole's late-life inspiration, as he sleazily attempts to win over a young nurse (newcomer Jodie Wittaker, doing little more then filling out a pair of jeans nicely). This was no Lolita, and the under-explored dynamics of their relationship does little to illuminate anything, opting to artfully exploit the premise instead. Many have praised the script's handling of this potentially scummy plot line, insisting Venus has far more class and substance then it's raunchy foreground would suggest, but I saw very little indication of that.

Rather, the film serves to highlight one dirty old man in all of his crusty glory as we watch, unbelievably, as this young young lady begins to offer more of herself to him. While not plagued with the indecency that would have felt more pronounced had the project belonged to more sinister minds, Venus is little more then the vapid glorification of an old horn-dog having one final hurrah. What is particularly annoying is how O'Toole and his on-screen elderly buddy continuously mug the camera with an awkward "rawness" that I suppose was instilled for comedic value and also for appealing to a younger demographic but only came across as unrealistic and laughably off. It is as if director Roger Michell, fearing the small box-office turn around, had his lead utter ridiculously foul-mouthed phrases in order to catch some tiny spark of edginess. Instead, these lines come off as painfully self-aware and completely counter-productive in proving to us that these old men are still hip.

Venus may have enough appeal to lure a certain crowd, as it had certainly pulled a fast one over many of our respected film critics, but the majority of this film felt like a tedious chore. Rare moments of cinematic sincerity occur, and when they do one will only realize what potential the film could have had if calibrated with a little more finesse. Rather, Venus let's the venerated O'Toole celebrate 50 years in the biz by having him gently chew the scenery, with dentures. His much touted performance, masterfully intuitive yet still somehow stale and predictable, was overstated from stature.
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Mawkish, bleak and unpleasant
peter-18501 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I'd give this unpleasant film a miss.

It is extraordinary how such a good combination of ingredients - excellent actors, filmed in English, in England - can produce such a nasty result.

The plot doesn't hang together well. Various ideas are brought up in a scene only to be discarded completely, with no particular relevance to anything.

The film is maninly an attack on old age and it aims as many humiliations at the elderly as it possibly can. The gratuitous nastiness extends to all sorts of situations - there's an impossibly callous and cruel surgeon, an unconvincingly brutal boy friend and many others.

Peter O'Toole acts brilliantly, of course, but it is all such a waste. The film is maudlin and mawkish at the same time as being nasty - an unusual combination, I suppose, but that's no reason to waste time seeing this.

The girl acts fairly well too, but, again, to little point. Here character isn't well developed, and certainly not pleasant enough to warrant any attention from an old man. She is unconvincing on many levels. I'm sure, that with a decent script, and an interesting plot, she could be a reasonably good actress, but this would be thin material for even a top flight actress.

There are some feeble attempts at humour. Probably the best example is; 'You know what they say about blind prostitutes?' 'You've got to hand it to them'. Brilliant wit, eh? And that's about as good as it gets.
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