Casanova
Well, Heath, the best word to describe you right now would have to be “foppish”.


Golden Mug

NOMINEE: Score (Alexandre Desplat), Costume Design (Jenny Beavan), Art Direction (Susanna Codognato, Robert Guerra & Luca Tranchino)

Theatrical Release Date: 12/25/2005
Director: Lasse Hallström
Cast: Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Oliver Platt, Lena Olin, Omid Djalili

January is typically the timing for widened releases of Oscar hopefuls and also a dumping ground for studio embarrassments, i.e. “Bloodrayne”. However, sometimes there are a few films that, while not necessarily on the short list for best of the year, provide a welcome distraction to both the extreme crap that is piled into theatres as well as the serious subject matter of the rest.

Swashbuckling its way into theatres over the Christmas weekend was Lasse Hallström’s latest film, “Casanova”. Hallstrom, as those who know me are aware, is on the short list for best filmmakers in my opinion. His list of films is impressive and he hasn’t made a bad film that I’ve seen.

That isn’t to say I entered into “Casanova” without some trepidation. The trailer was less than inspired and I was worried this was an attempt to rekindle the vibe he created in “Chocolat”, which while I think it was well made, I’m not the biggest fan.

However, all of my fears were erased shortly after the credits finished up and I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride that is “Casanova.”

In what is almost counter-programming, Heath Ledger appears in the film as Casanova himself. With “Brokeback Mountain” snatching up accolades left and right in the guilds and his performance as a gay cowboy being deservingly lauded, I’d like to imagine Ledger actually has a twin brother.

Perhaps one was raised by nuns in a foreign country after they were separated at birth. This would explain how he can be in two places at once. (For a good time, watch “Brokeback” and “Casanova” back to back and confuse your sexual senses).

In any case, Ledger’s role as Casanova allows him to return to his more customary role as a rakish raconteur and lover of the fairer sex. It’s clear his acting performance is more impressive in “Brokeback Mountain” but if you’re looking for fun, this is the film to see.

The film’s plot is somewhat tangled and weaves a bit of an intricate mess, but it’s such a fun-filled ride that I didn’t mind. Essentially, the Spanish Inquisition is looking to make an example of Casanova who, in the midst of seducing every woman in Venice, chances upon the one woman who will prove to be the only one he needs.

I tried coming up with an explanation of the rest of the plot, but it really is kind of complicated. Suffice to say, there are six people all involved in a complicated dance of seduction and betrothal with each other. The Doge of Venice, a friend to Casanova, does what he can to keep the legendary lover’s neck out of a noose and eventually Rome ends up sending its head inquisitor down to finally snare the elusive Casanova. I know it sounds weird but trust me, it works.

Obviously, Ledger alone does not a movie make and what really sets this movie apart from the mediocre is its supporting cast. Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Oliver Platt, Lena Olin, Omid Djalili, Charlie Cox and Natalie Dormer all add their talents to the mixing bowl being stirred by Hallstrom.

Of particular excellence are Platt, Djalili and Dormer. Their characters are so much fun I found myself grinning like a frequent short bus passenger a few times. It is in their interactions that the real fun is to be had in the film.

The scenery in the film is, of course, spectacular, as Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The costume design is first rate and the witty dialogue had me laughing and chuckling constantly.

All in all, Hallstrom has struck another hit here. Some reviews I had read before seeing the film called it a “fun romp”. That may sound like a bad indication but actually, it’s the best way to describe the film.

A film full of wit and absurd coincidence, I set my brain on “fun” and went along for the ride. “Casanova” earns a strong 3 out of 5 and if you’re just looking for something light and enjoyable, this hits the spot nicely.