Casanova

Last weekend I went to see Stardust, which I talked about a little bit last week, and absolutely loved. Relative newcomer Charlie Cox plays the lovestruck Tristan who ventures into a magic land to win the love of the vapid Victoria, played by Sienna Miller. I was quite taken with Charlie Cox who blooms during the course of the film, going from an unsure ill at ease boy to a self confident, charming man with a perfectly lovely smile that makes you want to smile back. So when I saw that he was in Casanova, also starring Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller, and that it was playing on my cable for free, I promptly switched off my phone and my computer and settled in to watch what turned out to be a charming, fun film with deliciously luscious period clothing and furniture, swordfights, a balloon ride, some nice chase scenes and pigs. Lots of lots of pigs.

Heath Ledger plays the title character, Giacomo Casanova, the famed lover, philosopher and scholar. He is having some trouble with the inquisitor, who wants to hang him for his immoral behavior, so the Doge of Venice tells him that he will be expelled from Venice unless he marries a woman so pure that her reputation can overcome his own. Casanova agrees and, with the help of his faithful servant Lupo (Omid Djalili) chooses a woman called Victoria, who is famous for her chastity.

Unfortunately she's the one Charlie Cox, playing Giovanni Bruni, is in love with and when Giovanni sees that someone else is paying court to his lady love he swings into action and tries to challenge Casanova to a duel. In the end Casanova does fight, but not Giovanni, who is awful at swordplay, instead he fights Francesca (Sienna Miller) Giovanni's sister, who has disguised herself as her brother. Confused? This is the just the beginning of the many masquerades that make this film so charming and funny. By the end of the movie you'll have seen at least eight different impersonations, all of them skillfully done and most of them to win the love of Francesca, who despises Casanova and what he stands for, even as she unwittingly dazzles him.

The dialogue is witty and often quite subtle. I particularly enjoyed the interplay between Francesca's betrothed, Paprizzio the lard merchant, wonderfully played by Oliver Platt, and Francesca's mother (Lena Olin.) Oliver Platt's entire performance is fabulous, from the first moment we see him stepping off his ship looking incredibly pompous, through his "treatment" at the hands of Casanova, who promises to help him look less like his product, all the way to the end of the film. Other notable, albeit small, performances include Natalie Dormer as the virginal Victoria who has more passion bubbling inside her than advertised and the aforementioned Charlie Cox as the young man who loves her from afar and goes through a radical change when he takes Casanova's advice on love.

If you're looking for a biography of the real Casanova you're not going to like this movie at all. But if you're up for a fictionalized flamboyant opera style (no singing) film based on just a few facts then this version will be just your cup of tea. Everything about this movie shouts joi d'vivre, from the fabulous music to the exuberant acting to the sheer beauty of everything, including the sets.

The only confusing thing about this film is why I'm just now getting around to seeing it. I could not figure out why I hadn't heard of this film before. How did I miss it? It's exactly the kind of thing I love but then I looked it up at IMDB and saw it originally opened on only 37 screens. I'm not clear on why a horrible movie like Stealth opens on 3,495 screens while something as hilarious and just plain fun as Casanova rates only double digits. I did the math for you and Casanova actually took in nearly twice as much money per screen. Believe me, it's about 2000 times better so be sure to check it out now.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Mr. No Name and is of the Superman: Ride of Steel roller coaster at Six Flags America. "Not the scariest ride at the park but it did make me feel like my spleen was pulled up into my brain. The line was very short when we went, on a Wednesday. We only waited about a minute and a half for the rides. It was a lot of fun and the first drop felt like I was jumping from a plane and was never going to hit the ground." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.