Venus Roger Michell

In the featurette "A Real Work of Art,” Peter O’Toole describes this film as a story about "a dirty old man and a sluttish young woman” but really, he’s underselling the enjoyment to be found in this poignantly provocative film. Venus tells the tale of Maurice (O’Toole), an aged stage and film actor plagued with prostate troubles looking to find one last breath of inspiration in his fading life. He finds it when best friend Ian (Leslie Phillips, who’s better known to youngsters as the voice of Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat) invites his slapper of a grandniece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) to stay in London to work as his caregiver. Immediately Maurice bonds with Jessie, coming together like two lost souls finding their stride, but it’s a far from perfect friendship. Maurice’s sexual energy constantly arises (no, not literally — he’s impotent), while Jessie uses Maurice’s advances to manipulate him financially, thus setting a tone that at times feels quite uncomfortable. Credit that to Michell and acclaimed screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, who’ve ensured that what many would suspect to be a touching pensioner’s dramedy is far more layered and stimulating. While the latter half falls into some of the softer territory that drives films of this breed (though rarely do the dirty old men get to display themselves so frankly), the first half provides persistent hilarity between O’Toole and Phillips, showcasing their fondness for overreacting and dropping the f-bomb (best captured during a toenail-cutting scene). However, it’s the dazzling chemistry between O’Toole and Whittaker that carries this film throughout, filling in the often indulgent and conflicted plot. The audio commentary with Michell and producer Kevin Loader is hardly worth your while, largely because the pair can’t seem to break out of their monotonous dullness. The aforementioned featurette, however, picks up the slack, and the deleted scenes provide a little more context, though nothing vital. (Alliance Atlantis)