Review by Sean Boelman
Casanova is such a notorious womanizer that his name has become fundamentally associated with philandry, hence why it is so disappointing that Benoît Jacquot’s period romance Casanova, Last Love is hopelessly dull. Competently-shot and well-acted, but ploddingly-scripted, this will end up in the graveyard of would-be prestige pictures that don’t have much to offer.
The film follows Casanova, living in London after having been exiled from Paris, as he meets his true love that threatens to end his promiscuous ways. Occasionally passionate but never romantic, and full of sex but rarely steamy, Jacquot’s movie is (perhaps fittingly) full of excess that doesn’t amount to anything particularly fulfilling.
The first twenty minutes show the promise of an interesting arc, challenging what we think we know about this stranger-than-fiction figure, only for the remainder of the film to become a straightforward historical romance. Thankfully, the movie mercifully clocks in under an hour and forty minutes, meaning that we aren’t subjected to too much of the monotony.
Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that the character development is so shallow. The three writers had an opportunity to take this person whose story has become a uniquely interesting part of history and turn it into something unexpected, but instead, he becomes a stock character. And unsurprisingly, the female characters are even less well-developed.
Furthermore, the film doesn’t seem to take a stance on the protagonist, which will leave the audience needlessly confused. Is Casanova a tragic figure whose vice led him to struggle to find true love, or has he secretly been a romantic all along? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because the audience’s investment in the story ends early anyway.
Brilliant French actor Vincent Lindon gives yet another strong performance in a mediocre movie here, bringing anything that even resembles genuine emotion into the film. Stacy Martin shows a lot of potential in the role of the love interest, but the script gives her basically nothing to take advantage of her skills.
The visuals of the movie are also rather notable. The costumes are elaborate (if exactly as expected), as is the production design. It’s a glossy period piece, but it’s about as shallow as they come. However, the benefit of the film looking good is that, even when it doesn’t have a whole lot that will keep the viewer’s interest in the story, it will at least catch their eye.
Casanova, Last Love is an entirely inoffensive historical drama, but given the story of its protagonist, that is far from a compliment. Vincent Lindon’s performance is almost enough to recommend this otherwise unspectacular romance.
Casanova, Last Love is now playing in theaters.