Sunday, 25 April 2010

Venus

Lowdown: An old man and a young bogan woman have an affair of sorts.
Review:
One of the best hidden secrets in Western society is that, barring the unexpected accident, we all become old. This allows us to treat our old people like shit but it also allowed the film Venus (2006) to exist: a film about old age featuring old people who do not shy from referring to their situation using various four letter words. A film, that is, which is very much an accurate depiction of the tribulations of old age. A film that makes a mockery of the way we treat the old. A film from Britain, because one cannot really expect Hollywood to come up with something so far from society's normal discourse, a film so politically incorrect.
Peter O'Toole stars as an old actor with some brains and a class act about him who lives in London and enjoys the fellowship of friends his age. He has all sorts of health issues and spends a lot of his time running around being mistreated by a collection of nurses and doctors. That is, they provide the services he needs but just don't treat him as a human.
One day an old friend introduces him to a maid (Jodie Whittaker). She's quite horrible: a bogan (what Israelis would call an "ars") lacking any intellectual merit who is simply awful as a maid - she even cooks the top notch fish the guy got in the microwave. Worse, from my point of view, she speaks with a distinct Yorkshire accent (not unlike that of my English side of the family), which immediately implies I can only understand half of what she says (as per the situation with the English side of my family). How I yearned for subtitles! Still, the girl is young and good looking (in O'Toole's eyes; not mine), and that's all O'Toole needs in order to start developing a relationship with her. That relationship is pretty much the core of the film, which moves about showing how the characters get to know one another, how they use and abuse one another, and how they change through the experience.
I guess Venus' message is about us (the not-old-yet) needing to remember we still have a thing or two to learn from the old, while also recognizing the beauty of youth and its innocence. The message is played back to us via an all too familiar Taming of the Shrew scenario. Then again, the message takes almost second fiddle to the main driver of Venus: the acting. It's not only O'Toole that gives us a nice show, his collection of friends provide a solid act that really makes a difference. Add the script that's not shy of properly used so-called abusive language and some nice touches of comedy, and you get yourself a film that's more entertaining than you probably expected from a film about the old.
Best scenes: The scenes in which O'Toole is going through medical treatment were the film's funniest. Especially the one prior to him going for a prostate cancer operation, where the doctor tells him there's a good chance he'll become impotent and a good chance he'll uncontrollably wet himself as a direct result of the operation, but hey - he'll still be alive.
Overall: A nice film with solid acting that gives it a lift over the 3 stars range but is just shy of getting into the 3.5 out of 5 stars realm.

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