30 Jan 2007
Venus, the movie, concerns unlikely romance, the Velázquez painting, life modelling and tragicomic consequences.
Had we read this weekends reviews of Venus, we might not have bothered to make the trip to the Odeon. It was Mrs Monk’s idea to see the movie and she overruled my claim that I was too busy, or as she put it, that I was “too selfish to spare a little time to watch Venus with your wife” The emotional blackmail worked. I reluctantly agreed.
Venus is an unlikely love story between an old man played by Peter O’Tool and a young girl played by Jodie Whittaker, barely beyond the age of consent. Both characters are opportunists, prepared to exploit one another, for sexual titillation and trinkets, but the film is of course about how they connect emotionally.
The writer, Hanif Kereishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, etc), challenges the audience to accept the notion that an unapologetic dirty old man in his 70s, can fancy a young girl, and that he is able to win her affection, in spite of his shortcomings.
Philip French of the Observer and others, including Mrs Monk, found a credibility gap within the age chasm. He describes the film as a “singularly disagreeable movie” and the writer, Hanif Kereishi as “misanthropic”, as well as “sentimental and unconvincing.” (I’m not sure if one can be sentimentally misanthropic)
Kereishi, has provocatively stretched the age gap as far as possible; the girl is barely at the age of consent, and the old man is wretched. This film seems to be unusually defined by the reaction to it. It is a small film, budget-wise, but it seems to have got people talking big about an “uncomfortable” issue, There seems to be no absolute consensus, particularly in the Monk household, where Mrs Monk fears she may have unwittingly kindled latent ideas in Mr Monk, and perhaps a return to Life Class. (The idea was never latent)
The film was also discussed on BBC’s Newsnight Review and divided the four critics down the middle: two despised it, two loved it. It seems that opinion has not been divided by the gender or age of the critics, but by something else. My theory is that any moral fogies, young or old, will be offended, and the rest of us will love it
Take a hanky