Film Review



Roger Michell’s Venus is a tender, beautiful little film featuring an exquisite performance from Peter O’Toole as an eternal ladies man who finally meets his match. Written with grace and sensitivity by Hanif Kureishi, who also collaborated with Michell on the similarly underrated Daniel Craig drama The Mother, O’Toole was provided with a terrific late career role as a veteran actor who spends his time hanging out with his buddy, played by Leslie Phillips. But when O’Toole meets his best friend’s grand-niece, the lovely if unrefined Jodie Whittaker, a spring snaps back into his step, as he spends his time courting her and trying to show her all that life has to offer. That this film examines a relationship, in all of its forms, between a very old man and a very young woman, some might question the intent of the storytellers, or the believability of the scenario being posed.

But because Kureishi’s screenplay was so compassionate and understanding of people’s inherent problems and desires, you’re able to relate to both O’Toole and Whittaker, and understand the mutual attraction that develops between the two people. Where it all goes is for you to discover, but I loved how this movie wasn’t content to play it fully safe, and I admired how it had the stones to present the story exactly how it was presented, seemingly unafraid by the idea that it might be deemed “icky” by some. Whittaker is excellent, sharing terrific chemistry with O’Toole, while communicating much with her expressive, soft face that amplifies her reactions to O’Toole’s numerous advances.

For comparison, one should really make this a double feature with 2003’s The Mother, as that film explores the shifting dynamics between a woman in her 70’s as she falls in love/lust with a man in his 30’s. I’ve long been a big, big fan of Michell’s filmography. Notting Hill is one of the better and more enjoyable romantic comedies of my lifetime, and Enduring Love is a totally brilliant piece of sinister work that far too few people have seen. Hyde Park on Hudson was naughty fun and Le Weekend was a total delight from start to finish, even if the narrative took a few dips into emotionally turbulent waters. And I’ve written in the past about my love for Changing Lanes, as morally complex, adult-minded, 70’s flavored dramas like that one are rare. And that’s why I’ve always responded to Michell’s work; he’s smart, he’s stylish, he’s thoughtful, and his movies don’t follow along the cookie-cutter dotted lines.

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