Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Not O'Toole's time again, I'm afraid
By Edward Copeland
I have an unusual request to make of the acting branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences: Don't nominate Peter O'Toole as best actor for Venus. Don't misunderstand me — this is a great performance, the best O'Toole has given since My Favorite Year in 1982. The problem is that as good as O'Toole is, Venus itself is not and I fear the competition for best actor this year is too strong for him to prevail as a sentimental favorite.
So, if he gets nominated, O'Toole will stand alone as the most-nominated actor never to win an Oscar with eight nominations and zero wins. It would be too sad to see this great a screen legend hold that dubious record alone (He's now tied with Richard Burton at 0 for 7) and he has at least been given an Honorary Oscar.
What stands in the way of O'Toole's much-deserved competitive win is less his competition than the movie he's in. It's easy to see how the Golden Satellites and Golden Globes split on what genre to place Venus in — it's not funny enough for a comedy nor serious enough for a drama.
In fact, if O'Toole weren't in it, there wouldn't be anything to recommend about Venus at all. Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and written by Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette), Venus tells the tale of Maurice Russell (O'Toole), an aging actor who finds a new spark in his life in the form of a young girl named Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), who comes to take care of her great uncle Ian (Leslie Phillips), an acting chum of Maurice's.
That's pretty much it. Jessie alternates between teasing and using Maurice and genuinely caring for the old man and Maurice clumsily tries to employ his old seduction techniques that are beyond rusty for the frail man. O'Toole is the show here, though Phillips also is good as is Richard Griffiths in a small role as another of their friends.
Vanessa Redgrave goes to waste as Maurice's estranged wife. It's hard to tell if Whittaker has much talent since the script turns out to be so underwhelming.
It is refreshing to see O'Toole get such a juicy role again. It's just a shame that the character doesn't exist in a better movie. Maybe proving to filmmakers that O'Toole still has it after all these years will encourage someone to get him another great role in a movie worthy of his talent and his legend.
Let him win an Oscar for that one — don't saddle him with the burden of being Oscar's all-time loser with Venus.