Fast-Paised review: 'Venus'

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Aging actor Maurice (Peter O'Toole) sparks a friendship with his best friend's teenage grand-niece (Jodie Whittaker), whom he calls Venus after the Roman Goddess of Love. Maurice the old man refuses to be typecast as a corpse--even if Maurice the actor is--and he tells Venus that he has a theoretical interest in her. Despite his impotence.

Big question: Is this a touching tale of companionship, or is it just creepy?

Catch it: This is an incredibly assured feature debut by Whittaker, who matches a screen-devouring O'Toole throughout. A tangible discomfort persists in "Venus," especially when the pair's relationship becomes borderline romantic; they're both aware that their friendship isn't normal but can't help the satisfaction gained from the other's company.

Skip it: If you hate reality TV. Maurice guesses that Venus is distracted by trashy TV shows such as, "Celebrity Love Island," and he shouldn't give FOX any ideas!

Bottom line: "Venus" can be too general with the backgrounds of its characters, and some old-people's mishaps are played a bit for humor. (The sweetness of the story is amusing enough.) Bold in its subject matter, tender in its performances and finally more rewarding for its moments than any message, "Venus" bids a gracious goodbye to adolescence misspent and a defiant "piss off" to old age not spent at all.

Bonus: Maurice claims that the ability to mix a good drink is as important as the ability to type. Time to test your bartenders on their words-per-minute and then head to the library and order a rum and coke!

Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.

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'Venus'

Directed by Roger Michell; written by Hanif Kureishi; photographed by Haris Zambarloukos; edited by Nicolas Gaster; production designed by John-Paul Kelly; songs by Corinne Bailey Rae ; additional music by Rae, David Arnold; produced by Kevin Loader. A Miramax Films release; opens Friday at the AMC Theaters, 600 N. Michigan Ave. Running time: 1:34. MPAA rating: R (For language, some sexual content and brief nudity).

Maurice - Peter O'Toole

Ian - Leslie Phillips

Valerie - Vanessa Redgrave

Donald - Richard Griffiths

Jessie - Jodie Whittaker

Jillian - Cathryn Bradshaw

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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