All somebody needs in life is a little acceptance. Even from a dirty old man who just wants to get in your knickers.
Maurice (Peter O’Toole) is nearing the end of his life, but still keeps a smile on his face and himself busy with work. He’s an aging-actor that takes jobs as lifeless corpses in certain shows and movies, however, it’s work nonetheless, and that’s more than he can say for his dear old buddy Ian (Leslie Phillips), whom he gathers with every so often to hang out, shoot the shit, drink some tea, read the paper and talk about people who have just recently passed. Since Ian himself is getting so old, his family thinks it would be best for him to be looked after, so then enters his great grandniece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), who, at first, he thinks is going to practically save his life and make him feel young again, but once he actually gets to meet her, realizes anything but. However, what doesn’t happen to Ian, happens to Maurice and sooner than later, he finds himself hanging around Jessie more, getting to know her, helping her get some steady work as a “model”, gaining some confidence in herself and sometimes, even being the object of his desires and pleasures. Yeah, it gets pretty creepy, as you can tell.
With a story like this, it’s hard not to get at least a little bit uncomfortable, all because who likes watching it when old, creepy and decrepit men, start pawning after young, blissful women? Nobody, and even though it definitely does happen in the real world (half of Hollywood), it isn’t like we really want to see a movie about it, let alone one that practically sympathizes for the man’s case. Then again though, you also have to take into consideration that the old, creepy and decrepit man called into question is in fact Peter O’Toole, and then you realize, “Oh, well he can’t be that bad! Can he?” And thus, we have our movie’s dilemma, but yet, a very good one that makes this a lot more interesting in the way it plays-out, then the way it looks on paper.
I guess the only real way to start this review off, and to start it right would be to credit the most important, and best aspect that this movie has going for it: Legendary stage-actor himself, Peter O’Toole in one of his final roles ever on screen. Knowing what we know about him now, it’s hard to watch a movie like this seeing as how his character is practically a take on his own person. For instance, the character of Maurice is an aging stage-actor that although may not be so noticeable and famous that he needs a bodyguard to keep hordes of fans from attacking him on the streets, is still a big enough deal in certain social-circles to where he gets invited to fancy parties, complimented on his past performances and maybe, just maybe gets asked for a few autographs here and there. And while this would probably make any 74-year-old man more than happy, it somehow doesn’t put a whole smile on Maurice’s face, instead, he just wishes he could turn back time and relive all of his glory days, and possibly make-up for the mistakes that he’s made; of which he has plenty.
That’s why we do sort of sympathize with him, in a way, to when he starts hanging around this much-younger gal, begins complimenting her on her body and sometimes, even touching her in inappropriate matters. Yes, it can be quite painful to watch since you know they don’t stand a single chance in hell of shacking up and living happily ever after for a couple more years together, but you still understand why a guy like Maurice is falling weak at the knees for this girl, so therefore, you don’t quite hate him as much as you do feel bad for him. This is all because of O’Toole’s performance and in the way he’s able to make us see how a guy as accomplished as this, who has been through so many ups and downs in his life, doesn’t look at the life he has now with a frown and paranoid feeling of death being in the air, but more of a hopeful, inspired feel that makes him act as if he could die tomorrow, and he wouldn’t feel like he’s stepping out on anything. In that aspect, it’s sad, but to see the way O’Toole has his character look at life with the sunny-side-up, you can’t help but be on his side and hope that he keeps on being happy.
However, you do also make sure that he doesn’t try anything too dirty with this young girl. That much is certain.
And speaking of this young girl, Jodie Whittaker, despite being stacked-up against one of the best ever, doesn’t really disappoint in terms of giving us a female character that feels like a troubled, upset and self-conscience girl that just needs some guidance in her life, and will take it in any which way she can. Her character isn’t written very-well, and you can definitely tell when personal problems of her own are more than likely going to come up and disrupt the rest of the plot, but Whittaker always feels raw and understated, which never got in the way of the always-amazing O’Toole. Good for her, and good for me. Also, be on the lookout for a small, supporting role from Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice’s ex-wife that still has some problems with him, yet, is ultimately forgiving in the end. Wish I could say the same about some of my ex’s, but so be it.
But the reason why I’m high-lighting these performances so much, particularly O’Toole’s, is because, when you get down to the nooks and crannies of this thing, they’re the only thing keeping it altogether. The plot is, for lack of a better term, lifeless and goes through the usual hoops that one dramedy needs to go through in order to have development, have a problem and have a resolution. It’s not a terrible story per se, it’s just not a very original, or compelling one. It’s just solely there to give these actors a chance to work their magic and that is exactly what they do, even if it does feel like there could have been more working here, had the screenplay itself not felt like such an afterthought. Oh well, at least we had Peter O’Toole doing what he does best, and what a legend we are truly going to miss.
Consensus: While Venus rests solely on the shoulders of its performances, mainly O’Toole’s, it’s still in good hands considering they are all what gives this movie life, hope and most of all, a heart that never stops beating, even when the end seems very near.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!