Last month, Peter O’Toole announced his retirement from acting, effectively ending a career that spanned more than six decades. In the weeks following his announcement, there’s been an outpouring of retrospective essays from fans and critics alike, including this piece from Seongyong Cho, one of Roger Ebert’s “far-flung correspondents.”
Cho’s essay is essentially a review of Roger Michell’s Venus, albeit one framed around the real world parallels between O’Toole and his character, Maurice Russell. In retroactively weaving the fictional with the real, Cho breathes new life into a six-year-old film, while reflecting on the final chapter of a legendary career:
Although its third act feels strained due to the choppy progress of the plot, “Venus” remains effective as a mournful human drama which handles its tricky subject well with care, respect, and a little humor. Through its sensitive depiction of the unlikely relationship between its two main characters, it tells us that some romantic relationship can be formed by something other than physical love, and we come to see that both of them get a lot from each other in the end. Jesse gets a better view of herself while moving forward in her life, and Maurice is satisfied with where he arrives at with her, though that matters to him little after that point.
And the movie makes us look back at Peter O’Toole’s illustrious career. When it was thought his career was going down around the 1970s due to his heavy drinking and medical complications, he bounced back with “The Stunt Man” (1980) and “My Favorite Year” (1982). After seven Oscar nominations without a win, he finally received an Honorary Oscar for his achievement in 2003, and we were glad to see him on the stage because we had thought he would have no chance of getting nominated again. But he said he was still in the game, and then he did surprise us with this film and got the 8th Oscar nomination in 2007 (he could have won, but, unfortunately, it was the year when Forest Whitaker literally swept the award season with his thunderous performance in “The Last King of Scotland” (2006.)
You can read the rest of Cho’s essay over at the Chicago Sun-Times.