Casanova (2005)


   When I headed out to see CASANOVA, I have to admit I
had very little expectations and knew little about the movie
beyond that it starred Heath Ledger and was directed by Lasse
Halström. So I was sort of pleasantly surprised when a rather
amusing romantic comedy. The screenplay, credited to Jeffrey
Hatcher and Kimberly Simi from a story by Simi and Michael
Cristofer, begins with the famed lover about to pen his memoirs
and looking back on a particular incident in his life. Now, this
movie has as much to do with the "real" Casanova as
STAR WARS does with space travel (that is, not much). What
it is, however, is an enjoyable and frivolous romp akin to
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE or even Halström's much maligned
CHOCOLAT.

      CASANOVA hits its stride when the exposition ends (as a
child, the title character was abandoned by his actress mother)
and the action shifts to Venice. There, Casanova (Ledger) is
cutting a swath through the female residents of the city. Although
he is under the protection of the Doge (Tim McInnery), he has
run afoul of the Catholic Church and the Inquisition. In a bid for
respectability, he agrees to marry -- and selects the virginal
Victoria (Natalie Dormer) unaware that she is the object of
affection of Giovanni Bruni (Charlie Cox) who challenges
Casanova to a duel. When the appointed time arrives, though,
Giovanni's sister Francesca (Sienna Miller), no stranger to
cross-dressing, takes his place since she's the better swordsman.
Casanova is smitten and he begins to court Francesca with
predictably amusing results.

   Francesca is a nascent feminist (long before the term came
into being) who espouses her beliefs in pamphlets printed under
a pseudonym. Because of her family's precarious financial
situation, she also finds herself affianced to the "lard king of
Genoa," a massive man named Paprizzio (wonderfully embodied
by Oliver Platt). There's also the complication of the arrival of
Cardinal Pucci (an oily Jeremy Irons) who has one goal: to arrest
and imprison Casanova.

   Hatcher and Simi's script includes mistaken identity, missed
cues, impersonations, and the requisite happy ending. It owes
a great deal to Shakespeare (although it is not in the same
league as the work of the Bard). Still, though,
CASANOVA is
a delightfully amusing lark, strongly acted by its cast (which
also includes Lena Olin).


     
Rating:                     B
     
MPAA rating:             R for some sexual content
     
Running time:           108 mins.


            Viewed at the Disney Screening Room
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.