Rated R; Directed by Lasse Hallström; Starring Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Lena Olin, Oliver Platt, Omid Djalili
Heath Ledger is currently earning Oscar buzz for his role as the gay lover in “Brokeback Mountain.” In “Casanova” he plays another kind of lover, the most famous in history. Ledger has lots of fun, as does most of the cast in this silly frou-frou of a film.
In 18th century Venice, Casanova is quite enjoying his life of seducing the ladies, but the Church isn’t quite so happy with his activities. Forced to at least make an attempt at respectability, Casanova decides to marry the virtuous Victoria (Natalie Dormer). Of course, as in all comedies, things don’t go as planned. Casanova meets Francesca (Sienna Miller), a beautiful, intelligent woman who captures his interest. She’s betrothed to a wealthy Genoan merchant whom she has never met. Meanwhile, the Church has sent its Inquisitor (Jeremy Irons) to Venice to trap Casanova, the master of debauchery. Thus sets the stage for mistaken identities, clever banter, beautiful scenery, and luscious costumes.
“Casanova” does not hew to historical accuracy and takes plenty of license with Casanova’s life (he was real and did have amazing luck with the ladies), but if you can turn off your thinking caps you can enjoy the film for what it is, a lighthearted romp with a wonderful cast. Ledger is fine as the hero, as is Sienna Miller as the heroine. The supporting cast shines in their silly roles. Jeremy Irons seems to be having too much fun as the stern, but befuddled Inquisitor. Oliver Platt willingly does his best to look ridiculous as Francesca’s fiancée. Omid Djalili steals his scenes with relish playing Casanova’s devoted servant.
Durector Lasse Hallström (“Cider House Rules,” “Chocolat”) keeps things light and amusing. Some of the more farcical moments are undeveloped, but overall, things hum along merrily. He also gives us much to feast our eyes on. There’s gorgeous Venice in all its 18th century glory. The costumes and sets are divine.
I found myself seduced by “Casanova” and all its charms. Of course, how could I not be seduced? After all, we are talking about Casanova.