VENUS: MICHAEL JOYCE enjoys towering performances from brigade of veterans
Venus (15) Directed by Roger Michell Starring Peter O Toole, Leslie Phillips, Jodie Whittaker, Richard Griffiths, Vanessa Redgrave. 94 mins Four star rating Ever since John Gielgud in Arthur, aging gentlemen of the theatre using copious and gratuitous p
Directed by Roger Michell Starring Peter O'Toole, Leslie Phillips, Jodie Whittaker, Richard Griffiths, Vanessa Redgrave. 94 mins
Four star rating
Ever since John Gielgud in Arthur, aging gentlemen of the theatre using copious and gratuitous profanity has been a winner. And Hanif Kureshi's script lets O'Toole and Phillips swear up a storm as two ageing actors raging against the final curtain call.
O'Toole is Maurice, a dashing ladies man who can't quite accept that age has stripped him of his desirability. Phillips is his best friend Ian, a fussy worrier, and they meet up most days in a local café.
All good fun - but you do wonder if this isn't all really rather lazy coming from an experienced team like Michell (Enduring Love, Notting Hill) and Kureshi (My Beautiful Laundrette, The Mother).
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The necessary edge, not much but just enough, comes with the arrival of Jessie, a very young grand niece who has come to stay with Ian with some vague idea that she might look after him.
Ian is horrified by and frightened of this apparition of brutal yoof. But Maurice sees a chance to try out his old charm one more time and a tentative relationship grows between him and the girl he calls Venus.
A relationship with a 50-year age gap is not going to sit easily with all audiences. But the script makes clear that this is a relationship based on self-interest, desperation and mutual opportunism. As such, it is more believable and less queasy than any on-screen love interest Harrison Ford has had in at least a decade. The fact that there is something rather nasty at the heart of the film, makes it just a little bit more than a nice showcase for some old actors.
Even so, the film's primary charm is a chance to watch some old war horses in action. They're all good value (as is young Whittaker in the title role) but it is inevitably O'Toole's film.
He may be unique among the theatrical legends in that he seems able to bring his stage persona to the screen without any compromises.
Movie roles always seemed to be a great effort for Olivier and Gielgud, a difficult process of trying to translate the stage magic to exacting demands of the camera. O'Toole on the other hand can wander on, declaim to the circle and somehow seems as innately cinematic an actor as
De Niro or Brando.