Peter O'Toole earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance in this touching, often very funny portrait of an aged British actor named Maurice who becomes smitten with a young woman.
It's not hard to see why. Maurice is a role that only O'Toole could play. Tall and frail, yet still endearingly classy with a tongue that drips sarcasm, wit and randy charm, Maurice is not fading gently into that good night. He fights it, but a lagging career, a humdrum daily routine and an impotent body that betrays the once dashing leading man of yesteryear fight back harder. The entrance of Jessie, a friend's troubled, reckless niece, into his life provides the spark needed for both old and young to find their own paths. The wisdom that Maurice imparts opens up Jessie, nicknamed Venus by the elder, to a new responsible life, while Jessie's youth, energy and barely-legal body bring love, life and sexuality, though unrequited, back to Maurice. The conceit drips of sap on paper, but the strength of the leads raises the material. Its comments on male aging, death and masculinity recall John Cassavetes' 1970 film, Husbands. However, Maurice would tell the midlife-crisis-plagued trio of that classic to shut up, stop crying and live. (Phil Morehart) Grade: A