While not quite as irresistibly seductive as its title character, Casanova is the perfect cinematic one-night stand: charming, romantic and awfully easy on the eyes.
With its disguises, plot twists, and mistaken identities--not to mention period costumes and vintage Italian architecture--Casanova feels like an adaptation of a play that Shakespeare never wrote. Structured as a flashback told by the legendary lover/adventurer himself, Casanova is ostensibly the tale of the bed-hopping lothario's one true love. When, in 1753, the prince of Venice warns Giacomo Casanova (Heath Ledger) that he must turn respectable or leave the city, Casanova sets out in search of a maidenly bride. Instead, he falls hard for headstrong, independent Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller). But her betrothal to lard magnate Signor Papprizzio (Oliver Platt)--and the vengeful bishop (Jeremy Irons) hot on Casanova's trail--lead to complications of the Three's Company kind. It's not hard to guess how everything will turn out, but getting there is plenty of fun.
Ledger--who has been receiving the best reviews of his career playing a lover of an entirely different sort in Ang Lee's dramatic Brokeback Mountain--is breezy and confident as the renowned seductor, embodying Casanova's own advice that the best way to win a woman's attention is to be the flame instead of the moth. Miller (perhaps best known to date as Jude Law's put-upon fiancée), meanwhile, certainly holds her own against him; her Francesca is earnest and determined, with just enough mischief to keep her from becoming pompous or shrewish. The supporting cast is uniformly strong, with Platt, Lena Olin (as Francesa's mother) and Omid Djalili (as Casanova's loyal valet) providing much of the comic relief, and Jeremy Irons chewing scenery with gusto as the papal inquisitor determined to put an end to Casanova's immoral shenanigans.
Lasse Hallstrom is no stranger to feel-good romances set in sun-drenched European locales; Casanova seems tailor-made to appeal to the same audience the director won over with Chocolat back in 2000. Like Chocolat--which, although engaging and thoroughly enjoyable, should never have earned a Best Picture nomination--Casanova is a cinematic confection. Lovely to look at (with the exception of some rather poorly done CGI backdrops) and melt-in-your-mouth sweet, Casanova's charm glosses over any script weaknesses--for instance, the fact that the film's entire plot relies on the fact that none of the main characters have any idea what Venice's most notorious citizen looks like--and offers the kind of indulgence that everyone can afford.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.