It is a sublime experience to watch Peter O'Toole at work. Few actors alive can do this job as effortlessly as he can, and it was no surprise when he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Venus. This is a great return to form for O'Toole, who recently has taken small (sometimes minute) roles One Night with the King, Troy, and Lassie. Some people think that this may be a swan song of sorts for the legendary actor, who plays a legendary actor at the twilight of his life. If this is true, then it's a magnificent way to go. O'Toole and his co-stars give wonderful performances that are enough to make people forget the script, which can get a bit hokey and creepy at times.

O'Toole is Morris, who still acts, and whiles away the day with his friends Ian (Leslie Phillips, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Thunderpants) and Donald (Richard Griffiths, The History Boys, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and takes small parts. They are cranky, ornery, and like to drink and cuss. Basically, it's exactly what you would expect O'Toole to be in real life. In this respect, director Roger Michell (Enduring Love, The Mother) and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (The Mother, Intimacy) make it easy for O'Toole. They throw in plenty of opportunities for him to recite Shakespeare, and plenty of opportunities for him to throw the f-bomb. Regardless, it's great fun. And Vanessa Redgrave (The White Countess, The Keeper) has a good small role too.

The story concerns the friendship that grows between Morris and Jessie (Jodie Whitaker), the rebellious great-niece of Ian. Ian think that she is coming to live with him to be a nurse - to cook, clean, prepare drinks, and basically tend to him hand and foot. Needless to say, this does not happen. Jessie drinks, doesn't listen, is a slob, sleeps in, and basically does everything that normal young women do. Ian despises her, but as soon as Morris sees her, he is smitten, calling her Venus. She eventually opens up to him, and the share an unlikely friendship. Jessie is a few things to Morris. She is a new friend for somebody stuck in a rut, and also an object of affection for an old man. The latter part of the plot is where Venus goes a bit awry. Michell and Kureishi play the attraction both for laughs and tenderness, but instead, the scenes feel a little lecherous. Otherwise, the story is pretty predictable - the friendship will bring a new sense of life to Morris and help Jessie mature a bit. Still, it's great watching O'Toole at work.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief nudity.

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