Venus – DVD Review

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Roger Michell

Peter O’Toole….Maurice
Leslie Phillips….Ian
Jodie Whittaker….Jessie
Vanessa Redgrave….Valerie
Richard Griffiths….Donald

Miramax Home Video presents Venus. Screenplay by Hanif Kureishi. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated R. Theatrical release: Dec. 24, 2006. DVD released May 22, 2007.

The Movie

Peter O’Toole was robbed at the Oscars – an action that is commonplace by now. Eight times he’s been nominated and not once has he climbed the steps to accept. He did walk out from behind the curtains to get an Honorary statue; this should have been his winning moment. Don’t get me wrong, Forest Whitaker was great as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, but he was only in half the film. That movie was about James McAvoy as the Scottish doctor. There really should be time requirements to qualify between Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Awards. Peter O’Toole dominates the running time of Venus.

His character, Maurice, is an elderly actor who has found his niche in cinema by playing deathbed characters. He hangs out with Ian and Donald, two acting cronies. The trio keep tabs on friends by scanning the obituary pages. They discuss potential roles and swap medication. But there’s a new topic since Ian’s niece’s daughter will be staying with him. Ian’s expecting a sweet, innocent girl that will gratefully take care of her elderly uncle. Jessie turns out to be a handful. She doesn’t care to be a caretaker. She’s a hard drinking, uncommunicative gal who just wants to hit the London life night. While Ian is up in arms about what to do with her, Maurice is turned on by the girl. He’s a dirty old man. Because of prostate issues, he has no dreams of humping her. It’s the simple thrills of staring at glimpses of her exposed beauty and touching her flesh that make him happy.

When they first meet, she tells Maurice of her modeling ambition. He hooks her up with a gig being a nude model. There’s a great comic moment as Maurice attempts to get a peek at the art class. As Maurice’s attentions grow, she becomes less disgusted at him being so close. Jessie asks him what he believes in, Maurice is quick with his creed, “Pleasure, I like. I’ve tried to give pleasure. That’s all I’d recommend to anyone.” When Maurice takes her to a movie set in a limo, she doesn’t mind sharing a little pleasure with him, but not too much. This does not turns into an episode of Girls Next Door with the 20-year-old Jessie hooking up with the 80-year-old geezer. There’s heartbreak in the film.

Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi and director Roger Michell constructed an elegant, humorous and bittersweet film. O’Toole works every moment to perfection. His surprise visit to his ex-wife’s place for dinner is so tender. It’s a dignified tale of a dirty old man. It’s a shame that this film wasn’t able to attract a larger audience than its $3 million box office take. If you want a small thoughtful film during this season of mindless summer blockbusters, pick up the DVD of Venus. Why didn’t Peter O’Toole win the Oscar? Perhaps Academy members thought looking up Jodie Whittaker’s skirt was reward enough for such a great performance? Venus is a film that will make you laugh and cry. Don’t watch it without tissues nearby.


The picture is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer looks great. The colors give a sense of the slow fading decay of Maurice’s glory days.

The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. Director Roger Michell and producer Kevin Loader contribute an audio commentary. They explain the issues that went into putting Venus into production. It’s a good Master class lecture. The subtitles are in English.


Venus: A Real Work of Art (13:45) is a behind-the-scenes documentary. Hanif Kureishi explains what inspired him to write the script. Peter O’Toole describes the film as being “about a dirty old man and a slutty young woman.” The interview makes this bonus feature essential viewing.

Deleted Scenes (4:07) has four moments snipped from the final cut. “Hospital” shows Maurice getting out of bed at the hospital. “Reading Lines” has him and Jessie practicing the script. She’s amazed at his memory. “Family Problems” reveals Maurice selling a painting to an art dealer. He runs into his ex-wife on the street. It’s bittersweet. “Victoria Station” has Maurice and Victoria arriving at the train station for their trip to the coast. All of these scenes could have worked in the film, but weren’t that essential to the story.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Venus
(OUT OF 10)