I love movies. All shapes
and sizes. But I am especially partial to romantic comedies, as predictable and
stereotyped as they may be. And Casanova falls squarely within the genre
of romantic comedy. But it can be forgiven its small fault of predictability
because it is marvelously written and cleverly acted, with wonderful
cinematography and costumes.
The setting of the movie is mid-eighteenth century
Italy and begins with Casanova as a young boy being bidden farewell by his
mother, an actress, who promises that they will meet again in Venice one day.

This promise leads Casanova to Venice as a young man, where he has built an
almost mythical reputation as a womanizer and bon vivant. Strangely, though,
most people don’t know who the real Casanova is or what he looks like, except
the women he "victimizes." Enter the Grand Inquisitor who attempts to
expel Casanova from Venice for "heresy" with a novice nun (but, as
Casanova mutters, "she was hardly a novice"), only to be thwarted by
the Doge of Venice who is sympathetic to Casanova. The Doge then tells Casanova that if he wants
to remain in Venice, he must marry a girl of impeccable reputation. Casanova does
indeed arrange an engagement with a Venetian "virgin," but then
promptly falls in love with a strong-minded woman who secretly writes
feminist-style "philosophies" which are very popular among the young
women of Venice. What follows is a hilarious succession of mistaken identities
and deliberate impersonations as Casanova attempts to win over his true love
and escape the persecution of the Grand Inquisitor. All the actors give
marvelous performances, but for my money, none stands out more than Oliver Platt’s
portrayal of the self-promoting "pork fat mogul of Genoa" who has
been betrothed to Casanova’s true love and comes to Venice to claim her. He is
eager to marry, but knows that he might not be all that a woman might want (or
more accurately, he might be far more than a woman might want). He turns
himself over to Casanova for self-improvement, with hilarious results. The plot
twists and turns at a fast pace, until all the conflicts are resolved in a
grand finale. Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller give their characters sincere
emotions without becoming caricatures, while Jeremy Irons plays his Grand
Inquisitor delightfully over-the-top. Lena Olin is great as the
mother-of-the-bride-to-be, as she attempts to lead her daughter to the altar,
with a not-so-surprising detour at the end. All in all, Casanova is fun
and smart and makes you feel good, just what a romantic comedy should do.

— Susan Frank