out of Five
Running time: 112
A couple of strong comic performances keep this comedy-drama watchable but ultimately it’s something of a disappointment, owing to an unconvincing central romance.
What’s it all about?
Heath Ledger stars as Casanova, the most notorious womaniser in 1753 Venice. After one indiscretion too many he incurs the wrath of the local Vatican inquisitor (Ken Stott), who vows to hang him for wanton depravity and generally putting it about.
In order to save his neck, Casanova agrees to marry an eligible virgin (Natalie Dormer) but things get complicated when he meets and falls for the feisty, intelligent Francesca (Sienna Miller), particularly when it transpires that she herself is engaged to a lard merchant she has never met (Oliver Platt).
There are strong comic performances from the likes of Omid Djalili (as Casanova’s comedy servant) and Oliver Platt, who steals the show with his turn as the corpulent, lovestruck Papprizzio. Similarly, Jeremy Irons has a lot of fun chewing the scenery as Bishop Pucci, while Lena Olin smoulders Sienna Miller off the screen as Francesca’s newly single mother.
As for the two leads, Ledger is unforgivably bland and uncharismatic as Casanova, while Sienna Miller does her best with a badly written part. Surprisingly for a movie about a legendary womaniser there’s hardly any sex in it, let alone any nudity. This is a criminal oversight from which the film never really recovers.
Sadly, Lasse Hallström’s directorial talents don’t really extend to broad farce – hardly any of the gags work and some of them are downright painful to watch. Similarly, the central romance fails to convince – it’s not Sienna Miller’s fault (she was sexy as hell in Layer Cake) but there’s a definite lack of chemistry between her and Ledger.
In short, this is a poorly written, disappointing film whose only virtue is that it’s pretty to look at. Ultimately, there’s nothing here that wasn’t done a thousand times better by the recent BBC version with David Tennant. Watch that instead.