In this new take on the legend of Casanova, director Lasse Hallström turns the 18th-century bed-hopper into a sensitive New Age man. Heath Ledger puts on the powdered wig and wink-wink demeanour and promptly falls in love with a flame-haired feminist played by Sienna Miller. However, the sad truth is, the Aussie star generated more electricity with Jake Gyllenhaal, in Brokeback Mountain and Hallström pulls the plug completely with a tentative approach that wavers uneasily between slapstick and sentimental.
One thing the director can't be faulted on is the visual canvas, which beautifully depicts all the froufrou decadence of Venetian life as it slips further from the grip of Papal Rome. Still, Francesca (a simply-drawn character played with much-needed spark by Miller) uses a male pseudonym to publish her "heretical" essays on sexual politics. Casanova is unaware of her extracurricular activities (and she of his) so all that draws him to her is the fact that she rejects his advances.
"A BANAL FARCE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITIES"
Aside from the lack of chemistry, Ledger and Miller simply don't spend enough time together to justify their love. Instead the plot descends into a banal farce of mistaken identities with Jeremy Irons flaring his nostrils as the Pope's henchman, sniffing both their trails. Perhaps the lack of real intrigue wouldn't be so noticeable if Ledger wasn't out-smouldered by the dungheap of tired jokes. His fat sidekick played by comedian Omid Djalili has bags more charisma. Instead of sweeping you off your feet, Casanova will have you slipping into a coma.