© 2006 Ray Wong
Stars: Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Oliver Platt, Lena Olin, Omid Djalili, Stephen Greif, Ken Stott, Natalie Dormer, Charlie Cox
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writers: Jeffrey Hatcher, Kimberly Simi, Michael Cristofer
Distributor: Bruena Vista
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content
Running time: 108 minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total Score – 6.7 out of 10
It’s rather interesting to note that Disney/Buena Vista distributes this period romantic comedy thinly disguised as a light sexual romp – Giacomo Casanova wasn’t particularly known for his chastity, and Disney is not known for anything risqué.
Casanova (Ledger) is a notorious “fornicator” living in Venice. When the inquisitor captures him for corrupting a nun – a novice – the lover boy gleefully proclaims, “She’s hardly a novice.” The Doge (Tim McInnerny) takes Casanova under his wings, but insists that he must get married within three days to protect his propriety. Casanova promptly finds a fiancé in Victoria (Dormer), a rare virgin in lustful Venice. Just as quickly, though, he falls for the feisty maiden Francesca Bruni (Miller).
Unfortunately for Casanova, Francesca is a feminist and she also writes under the nom de plume of Guardi, against womanizers such as the famed (but rarely recognized) Casanova. Furthermore, she must fulfill her duty and marry her betrothed, the Lard King Paprizzio (Platt), to save her family from destitution. Casanova tries to woo her while escaping the wrath of the new inquisitor, Bishop Pucci, who is determined to bring down the most famous lover of all time.
Sounds complicated? In a way, the story written by Hatcher (STAGE BEAUTY), Simi and Cristofer (ORIGINAL SIN) is rather convoluted with a huge cast of characters. The plot involves mistaken identity, lost identity, assumed identity… in fact, all variations of “identity” with multiple threads going on at the same time. Fortunately, the writers keep it light and fluffy, and the convoluted plot actually adds to the farcical romp. They also take care of introducing the characters properly so the audience won’t get lost on the “who is who?” The dialogue is generally crisp and light, sometimes very funny.
Earlier last year, Ledger (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) surprised everyone as the gay ranch-hand Ennis Del Mar. Here, he’s light and fluffy (complete with wigs and powdered makeup) as the ultra-heterosexual. At times, though, Ledger slurs his words and it’s very difficult to figure out what he is saying. Miller (ALFIE) is a worthy heroine against Ledger’s Casanova. She’s cool; she’s hot; she’s resourceful; and she’s beautiful, but not in the damsel-in-distress way. And darn, Ledger and Miller look great together.
But by far the strongest aspect of the film is the supporting cast. Platt (THE ICE HARVEST) is hilarious in his fat suit as the disgustingly obese Paprizzio. He pretty much steals every scene he’s in. Djalili (SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW) is also fabulous as Casonova’s loyal servant Lupo. Olin (DARNKESS) is delightful and spirited as Francesca’s gorgeous widowed mother, while Irons (KINDOM OF HEAVEN) adds a dash of comic madness as “good” Bishop Pucci with the red wig. Rounding out the cast are Cox (MERCHANT OF VENICE) and newcomer Dormer as the star-crossed (and horny) young lovers Giovanni and Victoria, respectively. They all seem to have a grand time making this film.
Director Hallström (THE SHIPPING NEWS) has a deft visual style. His Venice (shot on location) is lush and rich and colorfully romantic. Hallström captures the spirit and the splendor of Venice beautifully. The over-the-top set and costume designs add to the lavish production value. However, Hallström is mostly known for his more somber fares such as CIDER HOUSE RULES and, here, his pace is often frantic, to create that high-energy comedic mood that is totally unnecessary. He should have let the material speak for itself and let the actors take care of it. Still, CASANOVA is a light, fluffy fun film to be enjoyed.