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September 09, 2006
And I didn't think he had it in him anymore...

It’s a shame Peter O’Toole wasn’t here tonight. He would have absolutely enchanted the crowd…and received a standing ovation. For Chrissakes…Jodie Whittaker received a standing ovation! Such an ovation was admittedly much deserved as she took a bitch of a role and did a helluva job with it, holding her own opposite Peter O’Toole of all people! But it’s still too bad O’Toole wasn’t here, as his performance was such a joy to watch.

It was impossible to not see the legendary thespian having the time of his life. Relishing every moment of screentime he has, he carries the film in every sense of the word, being dramatic at the right times while also being wickedly funny when appropriate. A truly enchanting star turn...the sort I didn't think he had in him anymore.

He was sick. And that is understandable; he’s looked frail lately. In his witty ‘note to be read’, he specifically said his doctors told him to “not travel”. But this was the world premiere of his first opportunity to truly shine in ages. And it’s too bad he couldn’t attend.

The film itself starts out feeling like one long – and captivating – scene. Mitchell crafts the narrative together superbly, with the ‘flow’ of the film top-notch. The audience clearly loved it. This continued to work well for the first two-thirds of the film, with the audience literally being unable to look away from the quick-paced entertainment. The idea of a ‘dirty old man’ being infatuated with a young woman may not seem unique or interesting. But it truly becomes just that. Might I also add that Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Griffiths – with only three scenes each – manage to more than make their mark on the audience, with the latter being hilarious and the former being such a captivating screen presence.

And then…the third act came. A complication was added to the plot that was realistic but not handled well at all. The pace slows and the ‘joy’ becomes less dominant (which is somewhat appropriate but isn’t well done in the context of the film). The VERY last scene is well done but it’s a shame that the third act of the film is by far the weakest.

In spite of this, the audience was clearly into the film, especially early on, roaring with laughter at the rights times. The round of applause was very enthusiastic, especially when O’Toole’s name came up on the closing credits and when Whittaker stood up for the audience.

Further to this, it really seems that everyone everywhere is talking about this performance. How “great it is to see O’Toole back in top form” is a matter I have heard raised at all three of my previous viewings at the festival. At the risk of sounding harsh, we may never have a chance to see him giving such a great star turn again. So does this mean that AMPAS actually has the chance to make up one of the greatest Oscar injustices of all-time? It’s certainly looking like it. This is truly his show in every sense.


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