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Directed by Roger Michell.
Written by Hanif Kureishi.
Starring Peter O'Toole, Jodie Whittaker, Leslie Phillips and Vanessa Redgrave.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  2/15/07


My run to catch as many of the Oscar-nominated films as possible is coming to an end, with the broadcast just over a week away; "Venus" wasn't high on my list of films to see but when Peter O'Toole was given the nod for his performance in this film, I had to see if the old guy's still got it.

Two things are clear: O'Toole has still got that magical je ne sais quoi quality about him, and damn, is Peter O'Toole old!!  In "Venus", he plays Maurice, a seventy-something formerly famous star who still does bit work here and there playing senior citizens past and present in a variety of films, theater and television programs.  His best friend outside of his work is Ian (Leslie Phillips), a whiny old chap who commiserates with Maurice regularly on the state on old manhood, chatting regularly about pain, pills, relatives, or just plain ol' bickering while hangin' out at their everyday coffee shop.  Ian informs Maurice that he has called on a distant niece to take care of him, and so when that niece, 20-something Jessie (rookie Jodie Whittaker), arrives and proceeds to be the biggest do-nothing housemate Ian could have asked for, Maurice tries to soften her stance by helping Jessie find work, friends, or just goals in life but infusing himself into Jessie's life whenever he is not working.  It is their kooky relationship that is the film's strength, as we following one of the true odd couples in recent film history.

"Venus" is driven by the strong work of O'Toole--who looks as old as time throughout the film but also just as seasoned as he ever does, given how infrequently he works nowadays--but also by the surprising performance of Whittaker, who plays an interesting foil to O'Toole's Maurice by injecting attitude into the duo's relationship.  The bickering between Maurice, Ian, and Donald (Richard Griffiths, best described as "oh yeah, THAT guy", because he's such a seasoned no-name film vet) are some of the best scenes in the movie; Vanessa Redgrave even shows up to play Maurice's loving wife...the work all around by the performances is stellar, and as this was directed by Roger Michell (who also did one of the few romantic comedies I did like, "Notting Hill"), it is no surprise that the minor characters are given the same attention to detail that the leads are, you can't beat a comedy that has strong supporting characters.

Given the strong work of the actors, I was strangely bored at times during "Venus"; the film as a whole is, for whatever reason, not a great representation of the strong individual assets presented.  It does have some good life lessons that cannot be ignored, and the energy given to the flick by Whittaker keeps it moving...I don't know, I just got really inpatient (if that can be believed, given that this flick was only 90 minutes long) during "Venus", and I still can't figure out why.  I just know that this feeling is keeping me from going to the top of the scale on this puppy, but "Venus" is still a flick worth seeing and if you haven't seen a Peter O'Toole flick in a while, "Venus" is a good way to get back into the game.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09