Friday, February 02, 2007


by Brian
The question occurred to me while watching Venus last weekend - what exactly is acting? Peter O'Toole's performance in the film, of course, has been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, but I had mixed feelings about it.

Just to get it out of the way, I don't think the movie is really all that good. It's fitfully amusing, and there are nice moments here and there (mainly the ones O'Toole shares with Vanessa Redgrave), but on the whole I didn't feel it adds up to much. Frankly, I think a big problem is that the character of Jessie, played by Jodie Whittaker, just isn't that interesting. She's a terribly ordinary girl, boring even. It's hard to know why Maurice (O'Toole's character) cares to spend any time with her at all; I was progressively less willing as the movie went on.

So I got to passing the time wondering if anyone would have noticed O'Toole's performance if he wasn't "Peter O'Toole", with all the history and baggage that the name carries with it. It seemed clear to me that he and director Roger Michell were leaning less on O'Toole's actual acting than his image as a legendary, but feeble, old actor. It didn't seem like a natural or sincere kind of performance; it felt like an old man with a bag of tricks playing to the audience.

Yet, I don't necessarily mean that as a criticism, at least not completely, because they're still impressive tricks. I mean, how do we judge performances anyway? If the intent is to play off of one's image, is it still "acting"? Is a performance any less noteworthy (or Award-worthy) if it depends on what the audience brings to the film, instead of what they find there?

Like I said, these are the things I was pondering while watching an otherwise dull film. Wish I could say that I came up with a decent answer, but a week later I'm still scratching my head.

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Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

I liked it more than you did. I think Jessie is supposed to be ordinary--it's merely her youth that O'Toole is responding to. Maybe it's an old-guy thing, because I could certainly understand the attraction.

I see your point about his performance, but I found it moving. I haven't seen Gosling in Half Nelson yet, but of the four nominations I've seen in the category, O'Toole would get my vote.

2/12/2007 09:52:00 AM  

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