Peter O'Toole is the most loveable lecher of them all.
I've never been a big Peter O'Toole fan. Frankly, when people mention him I think of Lawrence of Arabia. Then I think of Laurence Olivier, and how much he over-acted in movies like Henry V. And then I get confused between who is who, and the end result is that I come away thinking that Peter O'Toole is a bad actor. It's not fair, but it's what happens.
Written by Hanif Kureishi (The Mother, My Beautiful Laundrette) and directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes), Venus was a chance to change all that. In Venus, O'Toole stars as Maurice, an aging, gin-soaked London thespian who spends his days taking odd acting jobs (but not corpse work--that's horrible) and reading the obituaries in his local diner with his fellow eccentric aging actor friend Ian (Leslie Phillips).
When Ian's great-niece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker, in her first feature film) comes to stay with him, he thinks she'll take care of him in his dotage. But instead he finds she is a headstrong young party-girl who can't so much as cook a fish. Not exactly what he was hoping for, but definitely what Maurice likes.
I know Venus got a lot of praise, but I still wasn't expecting to like it so much. As much as I've joked about it, it is primarily a movie about Peter O'Toole's being a dirty old man who wants to get it on with a girl who is 20 if she's a day. I don't care who you are--that sounds gross. And even boring.
But as it turns out, Venus is actually quite a fun little movie. I'm glad to clarify (in my mind, if nowhere else) that O'Toole is by no means the ham that Olivier was. He is somewhat spryer than I expected (although he still looks a good decade older than his 75 years). But better than that, the reality of the characters and their relationships to one another in Venus is terrific.
Old people are so often treated and even act as though they are delicate in sensibilities--like they were never adults full of lust and anger and passion. No so with Maurice. He and his friends drink and swear and talk in refreshing honesty, even while swapping pills and forgetting where their glasses are.
Did I enjoy seeing him lick Jessie's shoulder? Not so much. But given his character, you can understand how the young, hardened Jessie warms to him. He treats her like a peer, a friend (albeit on he'd like to see naked). So she can reciprocate.
Venus does move at a somewhat leisurely pace. But hey, its lead actors are all collecting social security, so what do you expect?
What's on the Disc:
-Feature commentary with director Roger Michell and producer Kevin Loader
-"Venus: A Real Work of Art" featurette