In my movie watching life this happens sometimes. I get one because of who’s in it, then they’re eclipsed by someone else. It’s hard to eclipse Vanessa Redgrave, but Peter O’Toole certainly did it in Venus.

I had tried to watch it before, but was so not in the mood to watch Peter O’Toole get a prostate exam. Time passed. My mood against that kind of thing didn’t change. That’s what the remote is for. I fast forwarded through that thankfully brief scene the second time around and watched the rest without incident.

Well, okay, I thought the euphemistically termed language was a bit over the top. Some of the stuff uttered by the geriatric set in the cast seemed strategically placed for shock value. I’m tempted to say the same about the sexuality between O’Toole’s Maurice and his Venus, but it was actually pretty subtle. Which left plenty of room for the charming, whimsical, even romantic, elements to creep up on me.

Maurice is an elderly actor, riddled with failing health, and exercising the remnants of a chivalrous nature and romantic soul. His best friend’s young great niece enters his life and brings him a last hurrah that affords adventure, nostalgia, and companionship tinged with something more.

Peter O’Toole shines as Maurice.
Forlorn, wistful, bold to the point of borderline lasciviousness, he navigates his elderly life as best he can, then better than he might have imagined possible. He calls his young friend Venus, as he comes to appreciate her rough edges, even as he smoothes them. The highlights of the entire movie come for me when he recites Shakespeare extensively. Here is a chance to see the great Peter O’Toole as few of us have. It’s a reminder of what a wonderful actor he was, as well as what a loss his talent now is to the world.

Vanessa Redgrave is not in the movie much, but she makes the most of her brief scenes. She plays Maurice’s wife. They are no longer together, but obviously care deeply for each other. Her character is in bad health and looks it. Part of what I love about Vanessa Redgrave’s skilled acting is her fearlessness and lack of vanity. Both are on display in Venus, and she shines any time she’s onscreen.

Venus is a bit unusual, with the central couple’s disparate ages and unlikely friendship that takes on a life of its own. It’s filled with eccentricities and wry humor, overlaid with a bittersweet knowledge that life is too short for regrets and excuses to not live it to its fullest.

Venus Trailer

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