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December 21, 2006


Venus Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi ("My Beautiful Laundrette") finds his trademark "crackle" of sexual energy in the unlikely sensual longings of Maurice, a terminally ill actor (brilliantly played by Peter O'Toole), for his best friend Ian's 19-year-old grand-niece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker). Jesse is an unattractive misfit recently kicked out of her home when she arrives to live with her great-uncle Ian (Leslie Phillips). Jessie's rude and unrefined attitude grates on Ian, but Maurice sees beauty beneath her coarse exterior, and sets about taking her out to plays, lunches and to the sets of his acting jobs. Although sexually impotent, Maurice cajoles Jessie into allowing him the smallest glimpses of her body and delicate nibbles on her nape that serves as the final conquest of his life. Newcomer Jodie Whittaker fulfills the elusive arc of her budding character, but it is the great Peter O'Toole who makes every ticking of the clock seem a momentous occasion in this nuanced drama about the power of the female body to inspire.   
Rated R. 95 mins. (B-) (Three Stars)


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