Review: Venus (2006)


Director: Roger Michell | 96 minutes | drama, comedy, romance | Actors: Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips, Jodie Whittaker, Vanessa Redgrave, Cathryn Bradshaw, Beatrice Savoretti, Philip Fox, Lolita Chakrabarti, Carolina Giammetta, Bronson Webb

Maurice (Peter O’Toole) and Ian (Leslie Phillips) are old friends and fellow actors. They humorously discuss their old man’s ailments and perform a comical ritual every morning with their large amount of pills for anything and everything. In this way, they laconically combat the inconveniences of their inexorably advancing age. At the same time, they jealously check the obituaries. They keep track of exactly how many columns and paragraphs this or that actor or actress is allocated and try to estimate how many they will get themselves. Then Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), the daughter of Ian’s niece, comes to London to look for work.

Ian is so happy with this feminine company like a child. Looking forward to the dishes she will prepare for him, he has bought her not only a pink towel to avoid misunderstandings in the bathroom, but also books by Edith Wharton. He thinks he can meet her love for music by listening to the Matthew Passion together. However, Jessie is not the caring housekeeper he’d hoped for or a lovely companion coming to relieve his old age. She talks flat, dresses and behaves vulgar and has no cultural interest whatsoever. Ian is in shock, but Maurice is deeply attracted to this young girl who is his opposite in everything. That fatal attraction only gets stronger as his death rapidly approaches from the prostate cancer he suffers from.

Peter O’Toole and Leslie Phillips are extraordinarily moving when the two elderly actors argue, tease each other, but also dance together to celebrate their physical decline and impending death in a chic way. The small role of Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice’s abandoned wife is also very beautiful. The goodbye kiss that she and Maurice exchange at the same time expresses eroticism, sorrow and companion love. The role of Jodie Whittaker as the crafty Lolita who trades hard-hitting sexual favors for the things she wants from Maurice has unfortunately failed. Despite her flat accent and vulgar demeanor, it’s hard to believe she’s really such a bitch, and with the unbelievable she’s treating someone so scandalous, the story drags on.

The messy scenario does not cooperate either. Instead of a nicely nuanced relationship between two opposites that are also separated by a large age difference, it saddles the viewer with a series of inimitable confrontations that seem very forced. “Venus” is particularly moving about aging and how, in the face of death, you can be as faithful as possible to everything you have ever been. Even though you are an old man, you are still that womanizer and esteemed actor. Peter O’Toole brilliantly shows how a human being can achieve this in a gallant way.