film review ***: Party Like It...s 1759
Casanova a Pretty Movie With a Few Good Laughs
By William Andrews
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Starring Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller,
In Theaters Now
We all know the story of Casanova, the man legendary for the length and breadth of his sexual conquests. But how many of us know the story of Casanova, a romantic comedy about finding true love via mistaken identities, set in 18th century Venice?
Heath Ledger plays Casanova surprisingly sympathetically, showing emotion and pain while always remaining oh so smooth with the ladies. Indeed, Ledger’s occasionally goofy charm reminded me of the ever-befuddled Hugh Grant, with the notable exception that Ledger can act. Nor was his the only exceptional performance. Jeremy Irons, who I can never quite imagine as anything other than Uncle Scar’s embodied voice, was in fine form as Bishop Pucci, notorious Inquisitor and Casanova’s nemesis. Who else could make torture and cruelty seem so refined? The last half star I gave this movie is pretty much just for him. The rest of the cast was all right too, but only that.
Set two and a half centuries ago, Casanova is rife with prettiness. Besides the actors themselves, the costumes were at times dazzling, the sets beautifully intricate, and the special effects (18th century Venice at night from a balloon) were nice too. While this movie used the ubiquitous “generic English accents = other foreign accents” rule that I’ve never understood, the illusion of another time and another place is still compelling.
Dispensing with the niceties, we now move on to the nitty-gritty: the story. I must say, I was taken in by the ad campaign calling it “Funny funny funny!” I thought to myself, “how nice, in this age of Narnian epics of Kongian proportions, a regular, funny movie.” Sure, it would probably be a romantic comedy, but so what? And hey, this one’s rated R, so who knows what we might see?
As it turned out, what I saw was a chick flick. Sure, it was a decent movie, and there was cleavage as far the eye could see thanks to fashion, but do not be fooled guys: total chick flick. And as for “Funny funny funny?” More like, “Funny.” A typical joke?
Woman to Casanova: “I’ll leave my window open for you, Casanova.”
Casanova: “Alas, my dear, there are so many windows and so little time.”
The crowd loved that line, and scanning my peers I saw why: couples as far as the eye could see. Apparently, I’d stumbled into watching not only a chick flick, but the perfect date movie of the season.
When none of the previews look like movies I’d want to see, I thought I was in for it. As it turned out, though, I appreciated the movie more as it went on — the humor just needed to get some momentum going, as the second half was much funnier. The various mistaken identities and noms de plume became Shakespearian in their intricacy, and almost screwball in their comedy.
By the movie’s end I was happy I’d seen it, though I could’ve waited to see it at LSC or even on DVD. It’s worth watching at least once; there are some good lines (especially the one about the Catholic Church), some good acting, and everything’s pretty. Just make sure you see it with your favorite girl or boy. After all, Casanova wouldn’t want it any other way.