Director: Lasse Hallström
With: Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller
Runtime: 109 mins
For a film that has a potentially quite boring plot (legendary lover meets his match with feisty woman and woos her with a variety of false identities, while hiding from promiscuity-hating authorities), Casanova is pleasantly surprising. Light, faintly amusing and almost heart-warming, it’s the sort of film to get you grinning if you don’t take it too seriously.
Set in the beautiful surroundings of Venice, the film’s location is definitely one of its greatest assets, and director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat) puts it to great use as Casanova, servants, spouses and a large assortment of Venetian authorities career through a large cross-section of the beautiful city: it gives the film a great tone.
Even at the points where this tone is spoiled by ridiculous slapstick and (terrible) special effects- clearly put in to justify a large budget- the two leads (Ledger and Miller) are certainly not harsh on the eyes, and for one of Miller’s first leads, she more than holds her own. Whereas before she has mainly carried the small-time role of a pretty face, here she more than holds her own as an accomplished actress, and it is warming to watch.
Ledger, however, seems to be yearning for better things, although he is reasonably amusing. Both leads have been in considerably better films, so this is, perhaps, to be expected. Whilst this has its fair share of swashbuckling, comedy, chase and even a glove-slap, the plot has more holes than well-worn socks, and it stumbles along, only filling a gap until the next set piece. The soundtrack is a terrible, continuous screech of violins and the denouement is excruciatingly convenient.
To be fair to Hallström, he is more used to earthy, soul-searching dramas than “period rom-com”, and consequently this outing is understandably less sure-footed and more experimental than usual. All things considered, though, and ignoring the farcical attempt at seriously dressing Miller as a man (a trick that should be solely reserved for Shakespeare), the film does make you smile. It is not boring and moves fairly swiftly. There are character arcs and it is well acted enough to allow the audience to actually form some attachment to its protagonists.
This is not a film to rush to see, but if approached with low expectations and not taken too seriously it is certainly not a disappointment; and if all else fails, it’s always nice to watch Sienna Miller smile.