Venus

 
Directed by: Roger Michell
Written by:Hanif Kureishi
Starring: Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips, Jodie Whittaker,  Richard Griffiths, Vanessa Redgrave
Released: February 22, 2007
Grade: B

Maurice (O’Toole) and Ian (Phillips) are two very elderly gentlemen in London.  They were once famous actors but as they have aged, the number of good parts has dried up.  It seems the only role Maurice is being offered is that playing a corpse.  He jokes that he’s cornered the market.

Our wrinkly duo have reached a point in their lives where they do whatever they want.  Their daily routine involves drinking, swearing and checking the obituaries to see if any friends have died.  They try not to show the effects of their age but time is slowly catching up with them.  Their minds may still be sharp but their bodies will only let them do so much.

Looking for help around the house, Ian agrees to let his niece’s teenage daughter move in.  Her name is Jessie (Whittaker) and she has moved to London to pursue a modelling career.  Ian’s hope that she will cook and clean for him is short lived.  Jessie is a lazy, self-absorbed bum who is just looking for a free ride.  He’s now stuck in a worse position that he was before she arrived.

Secretly enjoying Ian’s predicament, Maurice seizes the opportunity and strikes up a friendship with the young girl.  He takes her to the theatre, to art galleries and on long walks.  He loves giving attention to Jessie and he loves the fact that she’s giving it in return.  Maurice is enjoying the challenge of seducing a girl who is 60 years his junior.  He can’t help himself.  It’s given his life a sense of purpose.

The whole idea for this film may sound a little twisted but it’s handled tastefully by director Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes).  Some may think that Maurice is a dirty, old sleazebag but I saw him as a lonely man looking for an enthusiastic person to spend time with.  He knows his life his nearing an end but spending tie with Jessie makes him feel much younger.

Peter O’Toole’s performance has received rave reviews.  He has earned his 8th Academy Award nomination and should he lose (as expected to Forest Whitaker), he will own the record for the most acting nominations without a win.  O’Toole’s many years of experience are on full show in Venus.  He will win you over with some witty gags (too intelligent for Jessie) and some heart-warming scenes where his Maurice’s insecurities are on full display.

As a criticism, I thought the film struggled in its middle stages.  My attention waned and I was more interested in seeing the ending than enduring more character development between Maurice and Jessie.  It’s not for everyone but I get the feeling that those in the mood to see it, will find much to like.