A SURPRISING THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!
Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: I really, really, really enjoy Lasse Hallstrom’s films. The Cider House Rules, The Shipping News (one of my all time favorites), Chocolat, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape are a few that stand out. So I went into this movie expecting the typical Lasse-style flick …and I wasn’t disappointed.
For those looking for a historically accurate recounting of Casanova’s life, you best look elsewhere; this movie only touches on a few aspects of the great lover. Here we get a fun, raucous comedy with cinematic character (all filmed on location in Venice) along with sumptuous sets and startling costumes.
Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain, 2005) plays the starring role and does so with a wit and charm reserved for such a part. Indeed, I’m becoming more and more impressed with Mr. Ledger. His ability to play a confused gay cowboy in one film, then a slight historical figure in the next speaks well for his future acting career.
Casanova’s life is in jeopardy. The Prince of Venice has been covering for Casanova’s immoral behavior (fornicating and adulterating) but the Catholic Church has had enough. Inquisitor Pucci (played perfectly by the baritone-voiced Jeremy Irons) has come to Venice to hang the famed lover of women. But confusion reigns as Casanova misdirects the Inquisitor by taking on the (phony) mantle of Paprizzio, a famed pork lard salesman. Oliver Platt (again, perfectly cast) nearly steals the show as the real – and rotund – Paprizzio who comes to Venice to marry the beautiful Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller). Casanova falls in love with Francesca while Paprizzio falls for another. But Casanova is promised to another “virgin” whom he must marry in order to save his neck. Can he go against his womanizing behavior and get married? Is his affection for Francesca just another set of desires? Or could it be true love?
Against all of this slapstick behavior is the beautiful backdrop of Venice. Its amazing streets, waterways, ancient buildings with staggeringly beautiful edifices, and, of course, the usual Lasse Hallstrom direction of all of it; this is what Mr. Hallstrom loves more than anything else: letting the settings become a character themselves.
This isn’t to say the movie is perfect. It isn’t. The script, although holding its own charm, was fairly shallow and predictable. For instance, when Paprizzio is rebuffed by Francesca, his future wife, everyone knows that Paprizzio will find another mate close by.
But even so, the film is packed full of great dialogue, great sets, even better costumes, and some wonderful actors (How could you possibly dislike a film with Oliver Platt, Jeremy Irons, Lena Olin, and Heath Ledger in it?) History buffs should avoid the film like the plague, but if you like slight comedies and, in particular, have enjoyed the Lasse Hallstrom films listed above, you’ll delight in this flick. No doubt about it…