Venus in Blue Jeans and Short Skirts
I'm impotent, of course, but I can still take theoretical interest - Maurice
When you watch a lot of movies it's quite easy to become depressed by the often shallow, unoriginal stories which end up filling our screens, especially when it comes to the genre of romantic comedy. But then you watch something special, something interesting, clever, captivating and different and it restores your faith that the movie business has not turned into a cloning factory. One such movie, a movie which brightened up a dull day is "Venus" starring acting legends Peter O'Toole and Leslie Phillips, a romantic comedy which unlike the majority of generic pap is a movie about characters and their relationships rather than just obvious comedy.
Maurice (Peter O'Toole - Lassie) was once a great actor but now in his seventies is left to either play dying relatives in bit parts or while away his days with his old acting buddies including Ian (Leslie Phillips - The Jackal). It is through Ian he meets his niece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker - Attack the Block) sent to London to look after him. Maurice is taken with the twenty something would be model and whilst his feelings towards her border on the lecherous they form a rather unique friendship as they fill each others needs in a way no one else can.
On face value "Venus" sounds like not a lot happens except for a young woman entering the life of a lecherous old man and in lesser hands I would imagine that it could have ended up being that obvious. But thanks to the direction of Roger Michell "Venus" is a movie not interested in gaining cheap laughs from lecherous antics but exploring the rather unusual friendship between the elderly Maurice and the young Jessie. That's not to say it's unfunny as there is plenty of humour especially between old friends Maurice and Ian as the reminisce over their past and gently wind each up other, but it's sweet subtle comedy rather than being in your face and obvious.
As such "Venus" is very much a movie which is focussed on the characters of Maurice and Jessie and their rather unorthodox relationship. It's beautifully crafted leading you on this journey that starts as if Maurice has some lecherous intentions, whilst Jessie is playing the old man for what she can get. But it develops as a true friendship forms and Maurice treats Jessie with the respect and love that has been lacking in her life whilst she cheers him up.
Now it has to be said that any movie which deals with a relationship/ friendship between a 70 year old and a 20 year old is walking a fine line. It would be so easy to veer towards being cringe worthy especially with the semi lecherous element but Michell restrains any urges to titillate unnecessarily, although he toys with boundary pushing, controversial scenes of a semi sexual nature. And talking of controversial is the expletive littered dialogue which one moment coasts along all nice and charming only to sudden break out with a tirade of 4 letter words. It's shocking, but then not exactly out of character either.
Much of what makes "Venus" so good is the casting of Peter O'Toole as whilst Leslie Phillips creates an interesting character and restrains his urge to play up to his caddish persona and Jodie Whittaker strikes true claim as being someone to watch out for in the future it is O'Toole who is captivating. There is no other words for it Peter O'Toole is an acting titan, one of a dying breed who can create such multi layered characters without ever making them feel like caricatures. What we get is Maurice a blend of an old womanizer with a lecherous side yet someone who has a sweet, tender side making him instantly likeable. But he has different colours one moment his ability to quote Shakespeare is breathtaking yet the volatility of expletive laden outburst shock and this is always with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Basically it feels like O'Toole is playing a version of himself and what a wonderful character he is.
What this all boils down to is that "Venus" is a ray of light in a movie industry bogged down by unoriginal clones that churn through the same ideas without giving you anything of any interest. It's daring with the relationship between a 70 year old and a 20 year old but it is also tender as we watching this friendship grow though the needs of each other. And to top it off is a performance from Peter O'Toole which not only over shadows most of his co stars but also the film industry in general as it shows that there are few really great actors left in the business.
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