Casanova (2005)

Review

Casanova

Hey, guys. Are you having trouble with the ladies? Got your eye on that cute cocktail waitress at your local bar, but aren’t sure how to make a move? In love with that gorgeous female coworker who still doesn’t know you exist? Have a crush on that hot chick who sits next to you in chemistry class, but fear you don’t have what it takes to score? If so, look no further, because Venice’s most notorious womanizer is here to show you all the right moves.

Call him an 18th century Hitch, if you will – he’s Casanova (Heath Ledger), and he has so many admirers he doesn’t need to sleep with the same woman more than once, and seldom does. How does he do it? Is it his uncanny charm? His undeniable charisma? His stunning good looks? His fashionable wardrobe? Who knows? But what whatever he’s doing, it definitely works.

Unfortunately, its 1753, and Casanova’s promiscuous sexual endeavors are not popular among the Italian government. In fact, as the movie begins, our deviant finds himself arrested and sentenced to immediate death. Thanks to friends in high places, however, Casanova is spared the hangman’s noose. But he is told that he will be expelled from the city if he does not find a wife soon.

Having no desire to leave Venice, Casanova finds a pale young virgin (Natalie Dormer) to marry. She is also the secret crush of Giovanni (Charlie Cox), however, who lives across the alleyway with his widowed mother (Lela Lin) and feminist sister Francesca (Sienna Miller). Giovanni musters up enough courage to challenge Casanova to a duel, but a masked Francesca does the dirty work for him to save him from shame.

Casanova suddenly acquires an interest for Francesca; she is the only woman he has met who has completely rejected him. Too bad Francesca has no interest in associating with Casanova; she has a wealthy arranged wfiancé (Oliver Platt) whom she has never met arriving in Venice shortly.

Heath Ledger is proving himself as versatile as any working actor. This year, he’s successfully portrayed two entirely different roles; he’s gone from serious-as-a-heart-attack closeted homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain to Casanova himself, a charming, playful socialite of a ladies man. If it doesn’t take talent to convincingly portray those characters in back to back movies, then what does?

As Casanova, Ledger doesn’t play the material over the top; he lets the comedy speak for itself and focuses his attention on defining the cunning, seductive traits of the famed character. He’s perfect for the role. Ledger plays Casanova with such charming grace, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in this role – at least in this version of Casanova.

Audiences familiar with Federico Fellini’s lavish 1976 Casanova will be in for a delightful surprise. This Casanova is certainly complex, but mostly it’s cheese – pure cheddar. It never asks that we take it seriously, only that we have a good time watching the comic chaos bubble and brew. Director Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) surprisingly avoids anything that resembles a trite, tiresome, period-piece romance, and instead relishes in swashbuckling and humorous mischief. Casanova is a blast from start to finish.

And maybe, guys – just maybe – you can learn a thing or two about getting a girl… and keeping one.

The DVD includes one deleted scene, three making-of featurettes, and commentary Hallström.

Guess what I’m smuggling in my corset.