A story of friendship that's moving, funny and superbly acted, "Venus" resulted in an Oscar nomination for legendary actor Peter O'Toole. O'Toole plays Maurice, a respected, aging actor who has recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and does not have much longer to live. He's prepared to spend his final days in the company of best pal Ian (Leslie Phillips) and occasional visits to his ex-wife (Vanessa Redgrave.)
However, one day Ian's great-niece, Jessie (Jodie Whitaker), who's in London in an attempt to find some modeling work and because her home life has been troubled. While the crass, pouty young woman initially acts like Maurice doesn't exist, she eventually takes him up on his offer to go to the theatre, and shortly after to a museum. She takes him to a club, where the pair make for an awkward fit.
With Ian perplexed as to what to do about the girl and irritated enough with her to try avoiding her, Maurice sees this as an opportunity to further their friendship. While he is attracted to her, Maurice realizes early on that they are best - and he's only capable of (he tells her he has a "theoretical interest" - friendship. When questioned by Ian about how the two are able to get along, his response is that he's nice to her. As time goes on, Jessie starts to let her defenses down and become a little more outgoing, as someone's finally taken the time to connect with her and try to understand what's going on in her head.
The friendship between the O'Toole and Whitaker characters may be rather "controversial", but it's handled very well throughout the film, as while there is a bit of flirtation on the part of the O'Toole character, the film is more an exploration of the friendship that these two very different people find and the comfort that they find in one another. The film only makes a few little mis-steps, such as a subplot about Jessie finding a boyfriend late in the film that should have been left out.
The performances are outstanding, especially O'Toole as Maurice. Hilarious at times (his scenes with Phillips (especially a little fight in the local coffee ship) are often quite funny) and often moving, this is a grand performance from the famed actor and sadly, likely his last. O'Toole is wonderful in a few moments of screentime with Vanessa Redgave, as the two have a warm, heartfelt chemistry with one another and portray a couple with a long history impressively well in the few minutes of screentime that they have together. Whitaker manages not to get overshadowed by the amazing names that surround her in a fine performance.
Overall, this is an engaging little comedy/drama with a fantastic final (?) performance from O'Toole and some great supporting efforts from Phillips, Whitaker and Redgrave.
VIDEO: "Venus" is presented by Miramax in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. While "Venus" is a simple drama that focuses on the characters, the excellent presentation does highlight every last detail of both faces and the film's wonderful locations. Some slight grain (likely intentional) is occasionally seen, but no edge enhancement or artifacting is noticed. Colors remain rather subdued - again, likely by intent.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is entirely dialogue-driven, with the surrounds (understandably) rarely offering anything at all. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue and score.
EXTRAS: A commentary from director Roger Mitchell and producer Kevin Loader is included. The commentary is dry and a little quiet at times, but the two do manage to get a lot of detail across about the making of the film, discussing story, casting, locations and more throughout the 95 minutes. We also get some very brief deleted scenes and a fairly short promotional featurette, "Venus: A Real Work of Art". Finally, there's also promos for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Venus" is an engaging little comedy/drama with a fantastic final (?) performance from O'Toole and some great supporting efforts from Phillips, Whitaker and Redgrave. The DVD offers excellent video quality, very good audio quality and a few nice bonus features. Recommended.
The Film A-