06 May 2008


Netflix recommended this one to me. It's an interesting movie, particularly in its combination of tenderness and brutality. Although it gets described as a romance, I would say, rather, that it's a curious kind of exploration of the sometimes peculiar relationships people form. 

Peter O'Toole is marvelous, playing a fantastic blend of elegant, dignified gentleman and dirty old man. He embarks on a dalliance, of sorts, with a young woman (also supremely acted by a woman named Jodie Whittaker), the niece of a friend of his who has moved in to serve as a care-taker. She's not much of a care-taker really; she seems to mostly sit around drinking beer and watching tv and generally being a crude dude, particularly appalling to O'Toole and his foul-mouthed but culturally elite buddies.  But they seem to enjoy each other, curiously enough. As mentioned above, it's a peculiar bond, with a gentle, lovely side, and a cruel selfish one. It's a strange power-play, her lower-class, brash youth and sexuality, his age, experience, education and dignity - one couldn't in all honesty describe either one as exploiting the other. And while both are clearly using the other for their own not-so-flattering reasons, they also seem to actually care about each other in a strange kind of way, and ultimately, you can't really blame either one. It's the kind of thing I really appreciate in a film, when it unsettles your moral instincts. There are some genuinely moving aspects to the movie, where it manages to convey a kind of elegant nuance within human interactions that is really beautifully done.

Especially shocking, to me at least, were scenes were Venus, as he calls her, shoves Peter O'Toole, or knees him in the nuts. You can't do that to a weak old man! But as she matter-of-factly points out, eye for an eye - while less explicitly violent, his obviously unwanted gropings are just as much a physical violation. Furthermore, it's a curious testament to his strength and virility, to show that he's much tougher than one would ever think. 

All in all, an intriguing film, if occasionally somewhat unpleasant to watch. 

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