DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
CASANOVA (director: Lasse Hallstrom; screenwriters: Kimberly Simi/Jeffrey Hatcher/based on a story by Ms. Simi and Michael Cristofer; cinematographer: Oliver Stapleton; editor: Andrew Mondshein; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Heath Ledger (Casanova), Sienna Miller (Francesca Bruni), Jeremy Irons (Bishop Pucci), Oliver Platt (Paprizzio), Lena Olin (Andrea Bruni), Charlie Cox (Giovanni Bruni), Omid Djalili (Lupo), Tim McInnerny (Doge), Natalie Dormer (Victoria), Ken Stott (Dalfonso), Helen McCrory (Casanova's Mother), Leigh Lawson (Mother's Lover/Tito), Paddy Ward (Vittorio); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Mark Gordon/Betsy Beers/Leslie Holleran; Touchstone Pictures; 2005)

 
"There's no edge in Ledger's performance, only a lot of cutesy moments."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Lasse Hallstrom ("Chocolat") keeps it rolling halfheartedly along as a boudoir farcical romantic/comedy and like all previous films about Casanova it also turns out to be a stinker, but since Disney money financed it--it's more tasteful than the other films; the screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher and Kimberly Simi is no heavier than a feather. Though the pic is pretty to look at (location shots of Venice), its emptiness overruns its flaccid tale; it draws its comedy from tepid one-liners, too many mistaken identity moments and misplaced pratfalls that are awkwardly timed during dramatic moments. But it all comes down to whether you can accept the handsome Aussie Heath Ledger as the legendary Latin Lothario as easily as he was accepted as a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, as he never convinces here that he's Italian or a great lover even though he looks peachy in his costume. He plays the rake as if he were a genteel philosopher, more of an intellectual than someone the ladies will quiver and succumb to out of lust (one virgin upon a glance from him turns a bird cage into splinters, which seemed lifted out of a Bob Hope comedy). There's no edge in Ledger's performance, only a lot of cutesy moments.

In Venice in 1753, Giacomo Casanova (Heath Ledger) is a notorious lover, even plays spoofing his lovemaking skills are presented in St. Mark's Square. When he's caught leaving the bedroom of a novice nun at a nunnery, one of the leading prosecutors of the Inquisition, Dalfonso (Ken Stott), puts him on trial. He's rescued only by the efforts of his protector, the Doge (Tim McInnerny), who tells him that to be saved from the Inquisition he must leave Venice forever or get married. Casanova wants to stay put, so he searches with his loyal manservant Lupo (Omid Djalili, British Iranian comedian) for the perfect virgin bride and gets engaged to Victoria (Natalie Dormer).
 
Meanwhile, Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller), a radical feminist who dresses up as man to challenge the academics at the all-male university and writes popular feminist tracts under a masculine nom de plume, is awaiting the arrival of her wealthy fiance, Paprizzio (Oliver Platt), the lard mogul of Genoa, whom her father has arranged to marry but she has never met. Her mother Andrea (Lena Olin) insists she marry him to save the family from going poor. Francesca's shy brother Giovanni (Charlie Cox) is in love with his virgin neighbor Victoria, but never tells her this until she announces her engagement. Giovanni challenges Casanova to a duel for Victoria, and since he can't fence his sister Francesca takes his place in disguise. After fighting to a draw, Casanova sees her when she removes her mask and falls in love. After trying unsuccessfully to woo her under the false name he gave Victoria, he passes himself off as Il Lardo--the pig-fat merchant she's engaged to. This works because it seems Venetians at the time know names but not faces. Things go well, as it turns out they share the same love for a certain philosopher. But things get dicey when Paprizzio and the pompous and ruthless chief Catholic inquisitor, Bishop Pucci (Jeremy Irons), show up, which leads to a few silly plot twists before concluding and making some banal point about love.

REVIEWED ON 1/2/2007        GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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