From gay cowboy to gay blade, Heath Ledger sets about reasserting his heterosexuality in Lasse Hallström's - there's no other term for it - 'period romp'. Let that phrase serve as both description and warning: you can probably tell already whether you'll enjoy this knockabout tale of The World's Greatest Lover falling in love. Think of Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers or Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery. Think of Shakespeare In Love directed by Sid James. Think of a film where a recently ravaged nun is sentenced to "Eternal damnation for one night with Casanova" and smirks, "Seems fair!" It is, if you're in the mood, a good laugh.
Co-writer Jeffrey Hatcher penned Stage Beauty and this has a similarly Shakespearean delight for convoluted plotting, mistaken identities and star-crossed lovers. Ledger - first seen seducing a nun, then going on the lam - has great fun, carrying the film through its occasional crass comedy lapses with his charm and enthusiasm. Miller - a brunette here - holds her own and though it's hard to assess her performance apart from the tabloid furore which surrounds her in 'real' life, you certainly believe she could catch Casanova's roving eye. Oliver Platt is a guilty pleasure as a porcine pork-lard honcho, while Omid Djalili doesn't disgrace the Roy Kinnear-style role as Ledger's servant.
The disappointment is Jeremy Irons as a bastardly bishop. Where the part clearly requires Christopher Lee's arch sense of villainy and a commitment to the reality of the piece, Irons is uncharacteristically buffoonish, never convincing himself - let alone the audience - of his own dastardly intent. Come the conclusion, all pretence at historical veracity (it's a "partially true story" says the tagline) and good sense is abandoned, and, as beautiful people caper through this beautiful city, you'll either be screaming to get out or grinning like a fool. Fans of Fellini's Donald Sutherland-starring take on Giacomo C, don't look now...
Much more fun than it has any right to be, Casanova charms and seduces thanks to Ledger's charisma and Miller's beauty.
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