Film review by Colin Fraser
|A 74 year old man strikes up a friendship with a 19 year old girl. Though what she's after, and what he expects to gain, is not immediately clear.||score
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Peter O'Toole, Jodie Whittaker, Leslie Phillips, Vanessa Redgrave
Rating / Running Time
M / 95 minutes
(c) moviereview 2006-2007
ABN 72 775 390 361
Spellbinding is the general consensus regarding 74 year old Peter O’Toole’s effortless performance in what could be his last, great role. He plays Maurice, a working actor of reputation who still gets the occasional bit part; corpses and the like. Jesse, the opportunistic grand-niece of his best friend Ian arrives from the country. Her presence thoroughly upsets Ian’s fussy life, however Maurice remains a ladies man and, generation gap notwithstanding, fancies his chances. Yet this is no vanity piece – amid the woes of declining health, Maurice is willing to degrade himself (a little) and even endures the indignity of an on-screen prostate examination. Casting is central to the success of Venus, exemplified in two brief scenes between Maurice and his estranged wife (played by O’Toole’s ex-wife Vanessa Redgrave). They offer a master-class in acting.
Inter-generational romance was central to The Mother, a prior collaboration between Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi, though here the tone is much less brutal, and much easier to watch. Maurice and Jesse develop a friendship though her motives are not so clear. For one thing, why does the petulant girl allow a man four times her age kiss her on the shoulder? Revelling in sharp wit and saucy humour, Kureishi’s excellent script sparkles as it travels across the landscape of love, need and decay. In doing so, he gives O’Toole one of his best roles in decades, skipping a line that in other hands could have made Maurice a pitiable, if not thoroughly grotesque, character. Instead, his is a delicate work that gives Venus its beauty as they journey toward a sad yet gratifying last curtain-call.
// COLIN FRASER