The type of glossy, faux-literary period piece that defined Miramax before the brothers Weinstein left to start their own company, Casanova is so garishly colorful and cute that even romantic-comedy neophytes will find its uninspired adherence to formula borderline-unbearable. With his usual brand of cavity-inducing sweetness, director Lasse Hallström attempts to inflate his stale 18th-century tale of unlikely passion by transforming it into the stuff of legend, with iconic womanizer Casanova (Heath Ledger) and Venetian feminist Francesca (Sienna Miller) forming an improbable couple that discover, much to their (if not our) surprise, that opposites do attract. A charming lothario forced to don disguises and assume phony personas in order to escape the sex-squashing Inquisition (led by Jeremy Irons’s arch villain), Casanova boasts innumerable notches on his belt but no true love to satisfy his soul—until, that is, he meets Francesca, a gender equality-preaching beauty who loathes everything Casanova stands for. Casanova and Francesca are both unhappily engaged to be married, the former to a hot-blooded virgin (Natalie Dormer) who delights in giving oral satisfaction to her fiancé under a dinner table, and the latter to a portly lard baron named Papprizzio (Oliver Platt, relegated to unbecoming fat jokes) who winds up slathered in crap in an effort to lose weight. Such obstacles are predictably mined for sub-Shakespearean (or, rather, sub-Shakespeare in Love) identity flip-flops in which Francesca’s covert career as a writer of women’s lib literature is matched by Casanova’s masquerading as Papprizzio (at a masquerade ball, no less). Casanova is all surface, from its gaudily plush cinematography and set design to its Three’s Company-style comedy and “I’ll change you, you change me” conception of true love. Jeffrey Hatcher and Kimberly Simi’s script envisions happiness as something achieved through transformation of one’s true self, with Casanova and Francesca attaining contentment together only by doing away with their more profligate (him) and old maid-ish (her) urges. Nothing short of a complete stylistic and thematic renovation, however, would improve Hallström’s tediously conventional treacle.
- Lasse Hallström
- Jeffrey Hatcher, Kimberly Simi
- Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Oliver Platt, Omid Djalili, Lena Olin, Charlie Cox, Natalie Dormer, Stephen Greif, Jeremy Irons
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