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Evil's Apprentice
05-24-2007, 11:00 AM
Screen legend Peter O'Toole stars in this moving story of an elderly actor and his somewhat questionable relationship with a teenage girl. Maurice (O'Toole) and his friend Ian (Leslie Phillips) are two classy curmudgeons whiling away their hours in coffee shops and at the theater, but their routine is thrown for a loop when Ian's niece's daughter Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) is sent from the country to act as his nurse. Jessie shows up on the scene sullen and pouty, immediately drinking all the liquor in the house and slouching her way from room to room. But Maurice befriends her, taking her to museums and getting her a gig as an art model, and along the way he openly expresses the lust she has awakened in him. Jessie's brash rejections of his affections are at first as amusing as they are awkward. When she starts to allow him small pleasures--like kissing her bare shoulders or caressing her hands--the film enters into some uncomfortable, complicated territory, but it is deftly navigated by Hanif Kureishi's sharp screenplay, and O'Toole's heartbreaking performance.

VENUS is in many ways a quiet film, shot mainly in tiny shops and in Ian's musty apartment, and it often relies on single shots of O'Toole's weary blue eyes to convey the many complexities within the story. Far from just a tale of a May-December romance, VENUS is a very raw look at growing old, and the aches and pains, both emotional and physical, that accompany a man near the end of his life. It is an honest, moving portrait of human desire, and how it can both beat us down and lift us up--no matter the age. (1 hr. 35 min.)

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