Cinema Signal:

My Lolita Complex and other Tales of Sex and Violence
by Max Allan Collins, Matthew V. Clemens
. "Venus"

This film is all the things that people are saying it is: A last gasp performance by a revered actor; a black comedy about an old rake feeling lust for a sexy young woman, a poignant and pushy presentation of old age in a vigorous context. Yada, yada. Nobody seems to be asking many questions, like what does it say about an old geezer that he needs to disillusion himself with the possibilities of a relationship with a young woman?

My reaction may not speak for many others, but I had to ask: Does all of this character's free time (he's supposedly a still-working actor) suggest a shallow, empty, pitiful life? There are all kinds of deviations from the norm in people's diversity, of course, but this big screen dramatization may seem to some like pandering to the unrealistic and unseemly. Which is not its worst failing. For that, one may wonder, why should we even be interested? Despite some negativity implied in the question, there are a few answers to it that suggest limited success.

I've long been an O'Toole fan but not of the fawning type who will sing his praises whatever he does. Fine actor as he is, he is only 74, but here plays a tottering octogenarian convincingly. Fact is, I've been thinking of him as a frail old man for the last 10 years or so. It's either the way he's built or just part of his act.

In any case, any kind of sexually motivated relationship between an 80-year old and a sexy, vital 24-year old vixen like Jodie Whittaker is a challenge, but it seems to fit the special dominion of writer Hanif Kureishi whose last film, "The Mother" (2003) had a grandmother in a passionate affair with a man half her age. Could he be the screenwriting surrogate for Vladimir Nobokov ("Lolita")? Odd specialty, but there it is.

Movies about such hopes and dreams by a senior citizen risks limited commercial return -- old age isn't exactly the rage of the day. ("The Mother" barely grossed a $Mil). Such a subject has to derive its dramatic grip from strong supporting elements and a script clever enough to energize the star if there's to be sufficient sympathetic appeal to carry the piece. Kureishi and director Roger Michell have pulled it off with enough fancy and dramatic interplay to mask the unseemly aspects behind a veneer of mutual need and emotional susceptibility.

O'Toole may today be a feebleized version of his glory days before the cameras, and as challenged as he is with the suppositions here, he does show that there's still some magnetism in the old DNA. While this late fling in a delicately balanced star vehicle doesn't result in a film that cried out to be made and, and though you may not buy the premise or enjoy it much, you have to credit the dude with making the most of all he manages to muster.

As a vehicle in which to introduce a new, rising personality and potential new star, Jodie Whittaker is, perhaps, the best answer to my question above, "why should we care?" As the distrustful, impressionable nymphet, there isn't a false note or cliche' in her emotionally balanced performance. The dissipation of her character's veneer of hardness to reveal a soft depth in her personality hovers on the edge of credulity but keeps one engaged despite the essentially shaky premise behind it.

End titles feature the fine caress of Corinne Bailey Rae's satin voice in a subtly beautiful end track.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

Awards and Nominations
  • 2006 Golden Globe nomination, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, Peter O'Toole
  • 2006 Screen Actors Guild nomination, Outstnading Performance by a Male Actor in A Leading Role (O'Toole)
  • 2006 British Independent Film Award Winner, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, Leslie Phillips
  • 2006 British Independent Film Award Nominations, Best Actor (O'Toole); Best Screenplay (Hanif Kureshi); Best Supporting Actor/Actress, (Vanessa Redgrave); Most Promising Newcomer (Jodie Whittaker)
    Also: Rated one of the Top 10 Films of the Year by Newsweek, L.A. Times, NY Post, Associated Press and more.

  • The DVD

  • Feature commentary with director Roger Michell and producer Kevin Loader
  • Deleted scenes
  • Venus: A Real Work of Art
    Technical Specs:
    Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
    Widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio) enhanced for 16:9

    Corrine Bailey Rae Album

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    Peter O'Toole and Jodie Whittaker
    Old man's play; young girl's empathy.

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