R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Lasse Hallström
scr Jeffrey Hatcher, Kimberly Simi
with Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Lena Olin, Oliver Platt, Charlie Cox, Natalie Dormer, Omid Djalili, Ken Stott, Tim McInnerny, Helen McCrory, Phil Davis
with US 25.Dec.05, UK 17.Feb.06
05/US Touchstone 1h52

What a smoothie: Ledger and a random conquest

ledger miller irons

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Casanova This chaotic romp takes a real historical figure and throws him into the most ridiculously farcical romantic adventure imaginable. It's sloppy and corny, and rather enjoyable if you like this kind of thing.

Casanova (Ledger) is the most notorious womaniser in 1753 Venice, pursued by the local Vatican inquisitor (Stott), who's determined to hang him as an example of wanton depravity. So Casanova decides to mend his ways, on the surface at least, by marrying Venice's most eligible virgin (Dormer). Then he meets his match in the feisty and intelligent Francesca (Miller). Alas, she's betrothed to a lard merchant (Platt). Then the fierce Bishop Pucci (Irons) arrives to sort things out. Hijinks ensue.

Why didn't the filmmakers just come clean and call this Casanova in Love? They clearly pattern everything after the 1998 Shakespeare rom-com, although without Tom Stoppard's clever scripting. This is just a madcap lark, referencing The Merchant of Venice more than its own historical roots. And although he mercifully avoids sentiment, Hallstrom continues to work in his strikingly artificial style; it's filmed in the real place, but it looks like the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas.

Ledger holds things together in the central role, while Miller is terrific as his spirited foil. Irons and Platt chomp their way through the scenery, and everyone else is only required to play love-struck and/or sex-starved. Djalili is engaging as Casanova's loyal sidekick, although all of his wit is anachronistic. Not that period authenticity was anyone's concern. The film has lush production values that stress ornate costumes and beautiful architecture over any concerns of plot coherence or plausibility.

Much of the story feels like it's made up as it goes along--ramshackle and contrived, resorting to another pratfall to liven up the action, and indulging in unconvincing cross-dressing, cod philosophy and wink-wink innuendo. There's even a massive masked ball, as well as that old chestnut in which Casanova has to try to carry on as normal while a woman torments him from under the table. Basically it's just a big, childish farce--more American Pie than Shakespeare in Love. Good fun if you're in the right mood.

cert 12 themes, innuendo, sexuality 14.Dec.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Casanova Donna R Carter, Wisconsin: "I loved it. I walked out of the theater with a smile on my face, and when I got home my daughter took one look at me and said, 'You must have liked it.' I guess I was still smiling. There was plenty of humor and action and romance. At first (not being a huge Heath Ledger fan, myself) I was wondering at him being cast in the main role, but he pulled it off beautifully, making the legendary Casanova more of a flesh and blood human being. There were several times I laughed and was the only one who caught the innuendo, but the whole theater erupted with laughter plenty of times. The ending was a bit flat, I think it would have been better to end it just a few moments earlier - but I enjoyed the rest enough to shrug the ending off." (9.Jan.06)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall