The point of Casanova was to be a lighthearted romantic comedy with a farcical streak. Unfortunately, it comes off as far too manufactured, and it's too easy to see all the laborious attempts at keeping things spontaneous. Director Lasse Hallstrom is simply trying too hard, and the casting and mannerisms of stars Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller is far too modern to make the story feel realistic for its time. In other words, this is just a big case of period dress up. Okay, Casanova is not going for anything serious, but a cute Shakespeare in Love-like reimagining of one of the loves of the notorious Casanova, but is a bit too dull for its own good.

Screenwriters Jeffrey Hatcher (Stage Beauty) and Kimberly Simi, working off a story by Simi and Michael Cristofer (Original Sin, Breaking Up) was to have Casanova (Ledger, Brokeback Mountain, The Brothers Grimm) fall in love with his philosophical opposite. Casanova is all about hedonism. He has a reputation for being a great lover, and beds one woman after another. There are some who wish him gone from Venice, but he has the favor of the Doge. Francesca Bruni (Miller, Alfie, Layer Cake) is a modern-thinking woman. She believes that women should be the equals of men, and writes so under a male pseudonym. For no good reason, the script also makes her a very good duelist. So basically, if Bruni and Casanova were to meet, the two would despise each other.

The two do meet, and Hallstrom (An Unfinished Life, The Shipping News), does try to shake things up a bit by having Casanova pretend to be somebody else. Yes, like in most romantic comedies, this is going to come back to haunt him later, but the purpose here is for comedy. Casanova is close to being expelled from Venice, and has to hide from the imperious Instigator Pucci (Jeremy Irons, Kingdom of Heaven, Being Julia). He also wants to woo Bruni, which means he has to figure out a way to keep her arranged-marriage fiance (Oliver Platt, The Ice Harvest, Kinsey) otherwise occupied. To complicate things further, Casanova is engaged to marry Victoria Donato (Natalie Dormer), who lives next door to the Brunis, and is the unrequited love of Francesca's brother Giovanni (Charlie Cox, The Merchant of Venice, dot the i). Thus, Giovanni detests Casanova, but does not know that Casanova is the man wooing his sister.

And while Bruni has a very modern manner of thought, it is too modern for the time period. Miller looks and sounds modern, while everybody around her is from a different era. Especially Casanova. Hallstrom tries to gloss over the fact that this guy beds hundreds of women by playing it off humorously, but it sticks out in the film like a sore thumb. It's not too distasteful, just a bit archaic. After all, do people really think James Bond is cool anymore for sleeping with a new woman in each of his films. To flesh out his character, Hallstrom also inserts a small prologue about Casanova waiting for a long absent mother, which casts a weird light onto his womanizing. The first half of Casanova is pretty dull. Things improve in the latter half, where all of the random threads begin to converge and all of Casanova's carefully built stratagems begin to tumble down. It's slightly amusing, but again, Hallstrom is trying too hard.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 48 minutes, Rated R for some sexual content.

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