Peter O'Toole has never been an actor to disappear into a part, nor would you want him to: He was born to sweep a role around him like a matador's cape, transforming it by virtue of sheer heroic panache. Maurice Russell, the protagonist of Roger Michell's slight but pleasing film, is a suit lovingly tailored to O'Toole's ravaged but commanding frame. O'Toole plays a septuagenarian actor, facing the end of his career and life, who gets a burst of late-blooming lust from a sassy, sullen teenage girl (Jodie Whittaker). In most regards, this bittersweet comedy, scripted by Hanif Kureishi (who collaborated with Michell on The Mother), is made-to-order Oscar bait: a gift-wrapped vehicle for a screen legend, full of reverential nods to the craft, with reminders of the star's mortality delivered over loudspeakers from a running hearse. What keeps Venus from sinking ass-deep in Golden Pond is its sexual reverie -- and a star who couldn't play a cutely neutered grumpy old man if commanded by God.
Roger MichellPeter O'Toole, Leslie Phillips, Jodie Whittaker, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard GriffithsHanif KureishiKevin LoaderMiramax Films