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Star - Peter O'Toole
Genre - Comedy
County - UK
Certificate - 15
Run Time - 95 minutes
Amazon - £7.77p DVD
Blockbusters - £0.99 per night
Maurice: For most men, a woman's body is the most beautiful thing they will ever see.
Jessie: What's the most beautiful thing a girl sees? Do you know?
Maurice: Her first child.
So 'Venus', Hanif Kureishi's expertly sculptured screenplay from the novel 'Diary of a Mad Old Man' by Junichiro Tanizaki, brilliant material for old hams like Peter O'Toole, Leslie Phillips and Vanessa Redgrave to get their remaining teeth into for one last hurrah on film, which they do, playing three old hams hanging on in their by the tips of their gnarled bony fingertips, art imitating life, so to speak. It's also little Jodie Whittaker's feature film debut, and one of her first on screen appearances, proving that the talent is out there and you don't have to go to stage school to be able on film.
Peter O'Toole ... Maurice
Leslie Phillips ... Ian
Jodie Whittaker ... Jessie
Vanessa Redgrave ... Valerie
Richard Griffiths ... Donald
Bronson Webb ... Jessie's Boyfriend
Cathryn Bradshaw ... Jillian
Once great actor Maurice Russell (Peter O'Toole) is refusing to grow old gracefully and still working in the business at 80-years-young ,'stiffs' and the odd avuncular speaking cameo all he can get. But he still has a randy actors eye and a stray hand or two for the ladies and when his best friend and fellow 'luvvie' Ian (Leslie Phillips) announces his great-neice Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) is coming down from the north to stay in London to help look after him, Maurice heart is lifted at the prospect of such innocent jailbait to entice. 18-year-old Jessie is unsophisticated and naïve of the ways of the metropolis with dreams of being a model, a chance for Maurice to overwhelm her with words and culture to maybe cop a feel.
Whilst Ian is grumpy with his arthritis around the house and only taking the occasional tipple with his friends down their local these days, Maurice steels the chance to paint the town red with Jess, who, quite rightfully, quickly labels him a dirty old man but enjoys the clubs and bars all the same, Maurice recently diagnosed with prostate cancer then why not try to have some fun, especially as he has a big operation coming up.
At first she rejects his seemingly pathetic physical advances but, slowly, seduced by his charm and worldliness, warms to his obvious charisma that made him a star. She may be repelled by his age and dusty old bones but a man of words and poetry, however decrepit, can still win a naïve woman's affection and an unlikely bond of sort's forms. It's not the longing for sex and lust for Jess like it is for Maurice but a young girl learning the power of making a man want you but at arms length, the most potent tool in a woman's armory, soon exploiting his affections.
This is glorious British film, how we used to make them. Brilliantly written, badly behaved and wrapped up with great performances and a glow of welcoming warmth and compassion. It's funny, clever, daring, sexual chemistry between an old man and young girl not the done thing, especially after the Jimmy Savile affair. O'Toole would receive a well deserved Oscar nomination for Venus, his eighth without reward, as scandalous as his characters longing to 'cop that feel' one last time.
I guarantee if you are over 40 and can count to ten you will love this movie. Peter O'Toole is at his outrageous best and, one suspects, his role as Maurice not too far removed from the man himself, the twinkle as perky as ever in those piercing blue eyes. O'Toole was one of the original gin soaked cigar smoking Soho rascals and has outlived them all. Yes, he is still alive! This film must be how those old hellraisers live their final days before the rest home and morgue beckon. Because of that they really go for it on screen and you punch the air for O'Toole to keep going for it.
It wasn't a success as the big multiplexes here are owned by the American film companies and so no place for nationwide showings of low budget British films, its £3 million budget making just £7 million back. But the performances are outstanding and rare and so worth the rent on that alone, both Leslie Phillips and Peter O'Toole, like their characters, rarely seen on stage or TV these days to relish. O'Toole officially announced his retirement from acting only last year on his 80th birthday, whilst Phillips most recent film, rather ominously, was called 'Death'.
Imdb.com - 7.1/10.0 (8,852 votes)
Metacritc.com - 89% critic's approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 78% critic's approval rating
The Telegraph - 'Venus belongs to O'Toole. This is, hands down, my favorite performance of the year, largely because I love the way O'Toole (and the filmmakers) refuse to yield to the all-too-pervasive idea that it's 'icky' for old people to even think about sex'
The Times - 'He's got his Oscar nomination, but, if we might politely ask, how much of a stretch can it really be for Peter O'Toole to play a saucy old lush again?'
The Movieroom.com - 'A starring vehicle for an aging star who receives deafening awards buzz not so much for the performance than, it seems, for simply being alive'.
The NY Times -'It's a pleasure to have Peter O'Toole's company here - likely for the last time in a role of such magnitude & majesty, bangs still swept back in boyish wisps and his sky-blue eyes vibrant and hungry. A loving, lyrical, eloquent sonnet to elderly sunsets'.
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Venus is a film about an aging actor, Maurice, played by Peter O'Toole, who lives a fairly quiet existence with the occasional minor role in a film or TV series, and meets with an actor friend, Ian, to talk about the old times. The film follows Maurice's relationship with Jessie, Ian's teenage niece, who arrives to stay at his uncle's place to help him around the house. To Ian's horror, Jessie turns out to be very different than he expected, but Maurice finds a way to get on with the girl.
The encounter transforms them both to an extent, at least for a moment. Maurice appears a stereotypical pensioner when with Ian, bumbling around the house with trivial tasks. In contrast, when in Jessie's company, he seems revived into a younger man with the urges of a younger man. Jessie in turn transforms from a chavvy, ignorant teen into someone more aware of what she wants from life, and also becomes more aware of her womanhood, if you like. Or maybe her sense of herself as a woman changes into something a little more positive, and respectful towards herself under the adoration. She starts to take more of an interest in her surroundings, and appreciate that there is a lot to learn.
I like the way the film questions or at least tests the limits of our acceptance in scenes that make us think 'that's just wrong' in relation to the age difference and the nature of the relationship between the two central characters, but when we ask ourselves why, there doesn't seem to be a fully valid reason for feeling this. An age gap between two people unacceptable? How narrow-minded and puritanical.
The relationship forming between Maurice and Jessie feels wistful and transient, as the directions the two are moving to are opposite. The contrast of a man nearing the end of his life, and a girl just beginning hers is captured beautifully. We get the feeling that Maurice wants to teach Jessie something about the finer things in life, pass something on.
There is also something inherently sad about the central relationship being that of user and used, the using being done equally by both. It is also the relationship of a buyer and seller in many ways, the commodities being time, goods and opportunities. You could argue that these are part of all relationships in some form.
Peter O'Toole's portrayal of Maurice is nothing but fabulous, he is at the same time dirty and lecherous, and very endearing and sweet. It would be interesting to find out how much of himself Peter O'Toole brought into the role. Jodie Whittaker is also brilliant in portraying the vulnerability, the smart-talking attitude, the uncertainty and the subtle changes within Jessie.
note: appears on The Student Room in part also. Thanks!
If there's ever an instance where I desperately wanted an actor to win the Best Actor Academy Award, it would undoubtedly be for Peter O' Toole's excellent performance in Venus. Sadly, he lost out to Forrest Whittaker's also superb turn in The Last King of Scotland, making his eighth nomination without a win an Academy record.
O' Toole carves out his latest and greatest performance as Maurice, an elderly man who seems to still have a lot of vitality left in him. He takes quite a shine to his friend Ian's great-niece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), and the film takes the rare stance of actually considering elderly sexuality - he is a lecherous man, but also rather charming in his own right. It's an uncomfortable, but brilliant performance that seems so, so real, and whilst the right man may have won the Oscar, in another year, O' Toole may very well have been the winner.
Like many recently Oscar nominated performances (such as Mickey Rourke's astounding turn in The Wrestler), there is a great parallel between the player and part - O' Toole is an aging man who hopes to achieve glory once again, and his character, Maurice is still the same. Both claim to "still be in the game" (as O' Toole said when he wrote a letter to the Academy), and both feel that they're not quite at the end of the road, despite their accelerated age, and in the case of Maurice, a debilitating battle with prostate cancer.
This off-colour tale of coming of age and aging is refreshingly bold, and includes an Academy-caliber performance from Peter O'Toole, as well as agreeable support from Jodie Whittaker and Vanessa Redgrave.
This is a review of the film.
Peter O'Toole plays aging actor Maurice who spends his semi retirement with his friends Ian [Leslie Phillips] and Donald [Richard Griffiths] talking about the old days and favourite Shakespearean performances they've given in the past, whilst discussing such ailments of old age as incontinence and prostate troubles.
Into their lives comes beautiful Jessie [ A great performance from newcomer Jodie Whittaker] grand niece of Leslie Philllips's character Ian. Ian hopes that Jessie will fuss over him and cook him meals, he seems particularly fond of fish.....When Maurice visits his friend shortly after her arrival, Ian is dismayed at the 'youth of today' and how his grandniece is a slob and the only chance he'll get of his beloved fish is a 'frozen fish finger up the rectum!'. This and other verbal sparring between O'Toole and Phillips is either hilarious or coarse depending on your sense of humour, I personally found it very amusing!.....
After their initial meeting, Maurice and Jessie who he renames 'Venus', start to spend a lot of time together going to shops and looking for work for Jessie. Maurice also subtly smooths out some of the coarseness of Jessie's character, by introducing her to theatre, art and literature. This could all have been very annoying if it had been done as a modern day 'My Fair Lady', but Maurice learns from Jessie also.
I enjoyed the film very much, particularly the first hour where O'Toole and Phillips share several humorous exchanges, and the relationship between Maurice and Jessie is sensitively handled. The second half of the film has a slightly uneasy tone as the comedy makes way for melodrama, but that was the only predictable element of the film.
The dialogue is superb, written by a great writer, Hanif Kureishi and the direction by Roger Michell makes excellent use of London locations. Why does London always appear so amazing in films?, not so much in real life!. Also some mention should be made of Vanessa Redgrave's performance as Maurice's estranged wife, a touching performance of a woman left behind and forgotten.
'Venus' is a very fine film for all involved though I wouldn't necessarily say that it was an excellent 'acting' performance from O'Toole, who more sends up one of his personas. [ He does some wonderful, if very disturbing, leering at Jodie Whittaker!] But at 75 its a fine effort and great that he's still up for taking on lead roles.
Well worth a look.
Venus is a film I will never tire of. Its about life, death, old age and beauty. Wonderfully acted by noted thespian Peter O'Toole, he plays almost a similar character to himself, an ageing actor at the end of his life.
Into his life steps Jodie Whittaker, a young girl, neice of Leslie Phillips. As the film progresses, O'Toole begins to get to know the girl, eventually falling in love. This age difference in their strange relationship is the basis for many cringe-worthy scenes involving the two actors. It's not an easy watch, but they are necessary to explain their connection.
Venus just shows how versaltile Peter O'Toole's acting styles are. He can be empathetic, angry as well as frail and comic.If you're a fan of O'Toole you can still see touches of older performances in this film - everything from The Lion In Winter to The Ruling Class and the Stunt Man. It's actually very funny then, that his character has been spending the majority of his latter acting life playing corpses in Holby City.
The scenery and direction are also excellent. It's very well shot and the pace is just right. The useage of London and its backstreets and clubs are also appropriate.
Leslie Phillips is also good as O'Tooles best friend. He plays up to his age throughout the film - having O'Toole cut his toenails and swapping pills for incontinence etc. Vannessa Redgrave is also excellent as O'Toole's estranged wife.
The soundtrack is mostly upbeat, with Corinne Bailey Rae's 'Records' used to good effect.
Venus manages to be many things in its short running time. Its a fantastic little film, its just a shame that O'Tolle lost out again for the 8th time on winning Best Actor at the Academy Awards. If this turns out to be his last great film, then I'm sure he would be happy witrh that.
Maurice and Ian are aging thespians in the twilight years of their lives. With Ians health dwindling, he takes up an offer from his niece for her daughter to come and stay with him. Hopeful that his new live-in relative will be able to care for his growing needs, he sets about preparing his home, but is altogether unprepared for the young lady who finally arrives. Brash, common and ungrateful, Jessie has little interest in the old man, and has only agreed to the move to try and find work.
With Ian just about tearing his hair out, its up to Maurice to try and entertain Jessie. Initially Jessie is very cautious of the old man, but the pair soon starts to develop a friendship of sorts, as Maurice introduces Jessie to the culture of the theatre and in turn she introduces him to the delights of Bacardi Breezer. It soon becomes clear, however, that their relationship is something more than just platonic, but just how far either of them is prepared to take things is not altogether very clear.
Roger Michell is perhaps best known for his directorial work on the ever-popular romantic comedy Notting Hill, and if you have caught any of the trailers for Venus you could be fooled into thinking that this was likely to be cut from much the same cloth. Think again. Venus is a very curious and, in some ways, rather uncomfortable bitter-sweet comedy that left me with very mixed feelings.
Initially, the film is hilarious. The banter between Maurice and Ian and between the duo and one of their friends had me laughing out loud. Who would have thought that Maurices attempts to clip Ians toenails could provide so much humour? Rather like Grumpy Old Men The Uncut Version the mens bitter outlook on life and the modern world seems proven by everyone and everything around them. As Maurice lies on a hospital bed, a surgeon cheerily informs him that the forthcoming procedure is fairly straightforward although impotence and incontinence are likely but you wont die, so thats a result. Filmed in a rather gritty, bleak, colourless light, the mens world seems rather depressing, but is broken by those personal pleasures of whisky, the daily newspaper and a local café.
As Maurice, Peter OToole rather dominates things, commanding full attention in every frame. Whilst he is excellent in the role, OTooles supposed handsome and charming demeanour was completely lost on me and for the larger part of the film, I thought he was quite the creepiest film character Ive seen in a long time. Leslie Phillips is arguably the more likeable of the two, with constant outbursts of temper when things dont seem to be going his way. Credit goes to Jodie Whittaker too who, in spite of being surrounded by screen legends, somehow manages to hold her own as Jessie. Vanessa Redgrave pops in as Maurices sad and poorly wife, with several short but worthy screen moments.
When Jessie arrives on the scene, everything is, not surprisingly, thrown into the air, but this too initially provides plenty of comical moments as the class and age divide between her and Maurice is explored and ignored, Maurice seemingly delighted to down Bacardi Breezers in a noisy nightclub. Maurices interest in Jessie is clearly appreciated early on, although her willingness to exchange experiences always seems doomed by Maurices willingness to exchange body fluids, regardless of whether his body will permit such a thing. Both characters have a coloured history. She is the tart with a heart, initially more Vicky Pollard than anything else, but you always suspect that she has hidden depths. Hes the loveable rogue, still looking after a very ill wife he abandoned years ago and still desperately trying to shake himself out of bed every morning.
Their friendship is initially quite endearing. Whilst Jessie seems only to be tolerating the old man, Maurice leers and lurches around her, with random acts of kindness (he secures her first modelling job) to help cement the relationship. Whilst Ian struggles to believe that she is anything other than the Antichrist, Maurice has more belief in the girl and by his own admission is simply nice to her. They say that theres no fool like an old fool, but Maurice seems happy to accept this fact, even if he is the very old fool.
But what starts as a fairly endearing (and witty) relationship reaches a turning point, from which Venus is a rather different film. As Ian has a nap one afternoon, Maurice joins Jessie in the kitchen for a chat and initially speaks eloquently and romantically of his thoughts about her. The sudden (and rather unexpected use) of a very sexual swear word seems to shatter the illusion of any kind of platonic relationship and from here, the film descends into gloomy and uncomfortable viewing. Rather than being a quirky, mischievous old devil, Maurice suddenly comes across like an aged pervert and Jessies willingness to offer small concessions (you can smell my shoulder if you want) lurches towards borderline prostitution. As Jessie tells her supposed back story whilst lying in Maurices bath, you can never be sure just how sincere she is and his desire to accept the few scraps of intimacy thrown his way often seems rather degrading. When she offers him a treat one afternoon to cheer him up you do wonder what shes about to do (and what she does is pretty revolting.)
Furthermore, as Maurices health starts to fail, Jessies new boyfriend takes his place in the proceedings and seems to upset the apple cart even further, catalysing a chain of events that sends the film spiralling into its inevitable conclusion. The laughs seem to dry up almost completely and suddenly London feels like an incredibly oppressive place. The contrast is quite shocking and, however deliberate, inherently rather depressing. Ultimately, neither character is terribly likeable, which means that the films conclusion fails to be touching and you start to feel desperate to get outside and see some sunshine.
Unquestionably witty and boasting fine performances, Venus is certainly a well-made film, but the shift in tone and content will be uncomfortable for some and unsettling for most. A curious film for sure and not one Im sure that I would heartily recommend. But watch it, and decide for yourself.
Life for a pair of veteran actors gets turned upside down after they meet a brash teenager.