Peter O'Toole is only 75 years old. He looks older. Nearly a quarter century after receiving his seventh Oscar nomination, Peter O'Toole became the most frequently Oscar-nominated actor never to have won an Academy Award.
The Academy bestowed an honorary award in 2003 in gratitude for his memorable work in film ("Lawrence of Arabia," 1962; "The Lion in Winter," 1968; "My Favorite Year," 1982). It took the pressure off of giving him the Oscar for nomination number eight for "Venus." Forest Whitaker deserved the win for his tour de force performance in "The Last King of Scotland."
O'Toole plays an extremely senior version of the rakishness for which he is famous. He plays an extremely senior version of a talent over which he still has superb command.
His character boasts to a woman a half century younger than he that he is a little famous. Though this character still gets some work as an actor, it is sadly clear that however he lived his famous life, he did not arrange for a dotage with money. But this film also makes it clear that he lived a life of pleasure - having it, giving it, slapping it around.
This old man literally has to slap himself beyond the sad fact that he is an old man alive. He does so for the pleasure he still knows how to generate.
He has a relationship with that woman who is a half century younger than he, but even after seeing it unfold, you will find no simple way to stereotype it. He still has a relationship with the wife he abandoned more than 40 years earlier. After seeing O'Toole on screen with Vanessa Redgrave, you see what a disservice it would be to feel sad for these old actors.
"Venus," for all its humor, poignancy, and charm, eludes categorization. It is characteristic of the kind of filmmaking that flickers in the dark on a Sunday night at the Nevada Theatre.