Venus, the latest film by the estimable team of director Roger Michell (Enduring Love) and scripter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette), seems to have several agendas on its plate, among them a continuation of the duo's superb earlier May-December saga The Mother; a bemused reflection on the performing life; and a much-needed corrective to those horribly twinkly movies about lovably eccentric senior citizens that seem to belch forth from the UK on a monthly basis. Mostly, though, it's about building a shrine to the greatness of Peter O'Toole, assembling a loose, shambling framework for the icon to caper, rage, charm, and otherwise do whatever pops into his head at the moment. This is hardly a bad thing.
The rather shockingly desiccated—yet somehow still ethereally gorgeous—O'Toole plays an underemployed actor who spends most of his time down at the pub looking at obituaries. Salvation/temptation comes in the form of a colleague's teenaged grandniece, a seemingly air-headed party girl who responds to his romantic entreaties with varying degrees of humor, affection, and rank calculation.
Kureishi's script boasts a large number of good lines for his star to purr memorably—some of the romantic advances are shockingly raw—and, better still, provides for a number of grand interactions between O'Toole and venerable Brit fixtures Leslie Phillips, Richard Griffiths, and a sublime Vanessa Redgrave. Still, as frequently wonderful as Venus is on a moment-to-moment basis, the final impression is of a worthy film that would be easier to unconditionally embrace were it not for the moments where it seems to stop dead in its tracks in order to indulge in starstruck worship. "Isn't he great?" the movie says, time and time again. The thing is, anyone with eyes, ears, or a pulse already knows that.