Peter O’Toole plays Maurice, an actor now reduced largely to playing corpses (or near corpses) and watching his days fade away in the company of his similarly elderly friends. Enter Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), the grand-niece of one of those cronies. Maurice is taken with her, and the story then takes a decidedly Pygmalion-esque turn as sullen young woman and ageing Lothario learn from each other.
And then there’s the question of sexuality, which divides audiences and critics (though…I think we can all agree that, at the level of dialogue and performance, the film is wonderful). That O’Toole’s rather vampiric interest in Whittaker is rather creepy is absolutely true, but the film also, it seems to me, goes out of its way to make the viewer uncomfortable, and thus confronts the age difference head-on, perhaps raising more questions than answers. Plenty to chew over after a viewing of the film, at any rate. And let’s make no bones about it: the film is almost unbearably moving.
The 5.1 track is superb. The environmental effects are very nicely handled, in that they are present, perfectly placed, and are loud enough to plunge the audience into the world of the film without being overwhelming. The sounds of London traffic are particularly well done in this regard. The dialogue is crystalline and free of distortion.
The picture quality mirrors that of the sound – gorgeous without being distracting. The film has a very natural, “lived-in” feel to it, thanks to the happy marriage of both audio and video. The colours are warm but not strident. The contrasts, blacks and (very important) skin tones are all excellent as well. Grain and edge enhancement are not problems.
Director Roger Mitchell and producer Kevin Loader’s commentary is pleasant, but a bit dry, leaning heavily on behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts. The making-of featurette (“Venus: A Real Work of Art”) is features plenty of witty interviews and is a model of its kind. There are a handful of deleted scenes, and some trailers as well.
Highly recommended, and O’Toole’s performance is astonishing. He was robbed at the Oscars.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Making-of Featurette
- Deleted Scenes