Venus (Michell, 2006)

In Roger Michell’s Venus, the generation gap gets strung together with fleshy innuendo and smarmy charm. Maurice (Peter O’Toole), an elder statesman of English acting, gets smitten with Jessie, the teenage niece of an old chap from the theater. She’s somewhat of a dud and he’s a horny old man with a naughty history (Vanessa Redgrave’s turn as his ex-wife is a stirring indictment of the man’s past infidelity), yet each sees hope in the other. Venus tends to overlap cliches (the thuggish young boyfriend of Jesse, the opening painting of the seaside) with genuine moments of compassion between the aged and those willing to spend time listening. There’s something off-putting about Roger Michell’s directing style, which favors an obvious repetition of shot selection, pop music, and emotional outbursts. I can’t say the film really lives up to it’s reputation, especially as a centerpiece of Peter O’Toole’s illustrious career. It’s often callous, pouty, and overly sentimental in ways reserved for typical American romantic comedies. When Jessie finally wises up and comes screaming back to Maurice’s flat, the moment borders on ridiculous since her broad stares have yielded little dimension thus far. But O’Toole’s brilliant interactions with Redgrave, compatriots Richard Griffiths and Leslie Phillips, save the picture from being trite – old pros dancing words off one another with style and grace. I wish Venus had more of each.

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