"Spellbinding" is the consensus on 74-year-old Peter O'Toole's performance as an actor who traverses the landscape of love with a teenage beauty. Funny, randy script by Hanif Kureishi (The Mother).
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
"Spellbinding" is the general consensus regarding 74-year-old Peter O’Toole’s performance in what could be his last great role. As Maurice, he is a working actor of some reputation who still gets the occasional bit part: corpses and the like. When Jesse, the opportunistic grand-niece of his best friend Ian, arrives, the old men are put into a spin. Ian fusses about the indolent, MTV-watching philistine while Maurice, ever the ladies man, praises fate that has delivered him one last gift in the form of teenage beauty. The actors are working from a highly charged script by Hanif Kureishi (The Buddha of Suburbia), who teamed with director Roger Michell on a previous inter-generational romance, The Mother. Here the tone is much less brutal, though no less profane. As Maurice and Jesse traverse the landscape of love, need and decay, they develop a complicated friendship: he offers her the revelations of age, she offers a youthful shoulder. Yet this is no vanity piece – amid the woes of declining health, Maurice is willing to mock himself and O’Toole even endures the indignity of an on-screen prostate examination. Casting is central to the success of Venus, exemplified in two scenes between the old man and his estranged wife (played by another veteran of stage and screen, Vanessa Redgrave) which offer a brief master-class in acting. Replete with razor wit and irreverent humour, O’Toole revels in one of his best roles in decades, skipping a line that in other hands could have made Maurice a pitiable, if not thoroughly grotesque, character.
“Maurice is one of the roles for which we’ll long remember him. It’s a ripping job by a beautiful actor.” — Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune