Sunday, September 10, 2006


Venus had its world premiere at the festival, and is the latest collaboration between director Roger Michell and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi. Both worked together on The Buddha of Suburbia and The Mother (which played at the festival a few years ago). Kureishi, of course, is known for such other works as Intimacy, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, and My Beautiful Laundrette. Michell has also directed Enduring Love (another festival showing a couple of years ago), Changing Lanes, and Notting Hill.

Venus is a funny and touching film starring Peter O'Toole as Maurice, an aging actor and lothario, who in some ways is an exaggerated, larger-than-life version of Toole's real-life self, always ready with the charm and a witty turn of phrase. Maurice's friend Ian, played by veteran actor Leslie Phillips, mentions one day that his niece's daughter is moving in with him to serve as his caregiver. But Jessie, played by newcomer Jodie Whittaker in her first feature film role, is nothing like Ian expects.

Maurice, however, manages to connect with her, and the two of them form a relationship of sorts. But, as is wont to happen in a May-September romance, Maurice wants more than Jessie is emotionally equipped to give, leading to complications. Eventually, the two of them each gain something from the other, Maurice getting one more chance to experience life as he comes to the end of his own, and Jessie getting to grow and mature beyond her moody, sullen, rebellious self.

Rounding out the cast are Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice's ex-wife, and Richard Griffiths as another of Maurice's friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed Venus; the film has a great little heart in the interplay between Maurice and Jessie. And O'Toole and Phillips constantly had the audience in stitches, and together with the script elevated the characters beyond what you might normally expect, showing that there was still some spark of life and vitality there even as they realized their own mortality.

Director Roger Michell, screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, and actress Jodie Whittaker (along with her proud parents) were all in attendance. Unfortunately, Peter O'Toole could not attend due to a case of the "gastric nasties", as explained in a note read by Michell. O'Toole wrote that he had a special affection for Toronto having worked and lived in the city in the past, thanked the cast and the crew, especially his co-star Whittaker whom he called a genuine talent, and ended on "may the maple leaf forever flutter", to which the audience showed its appreciation. As is usual for the Elgin, where the movie was screening, there was no Q&A after the film.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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