film review: Charlie Casanova (2012)

film review: Charlie Casanova (2012)

I don’t think this is going to be a long one. I don’t know how motivated I can get about something I hate.

I didn’t know anything about Charlie Casanova before I saw, but I had heard that some people didn’t like it. That kind of thing means nothing to me really, I’ll always watch a film with an open mind, and I try to see the good in a film.

Charlie Casanova, Terry McMahon, Emmet ScanlanWell. Now that I’ve seen it, there’s only one good thing I can muster about Charlie Casanova. I thought some of the scenes were blocked and framed well. That’s it. Oh ok, there’s one more not negative thing… Emmet Scanlan can be admired for putting on a committed performance. Now that’s it.

Terry McMahon purports that this film is “a movie examining the delusions of corrupted elitism and the malignancy of class separation”. Its website says it’s “A Clockwork Orange meets American Psycho in an uncompromising look at our corrupted times”. Yes, Charlie Casanova does have lofty aspirations, I won’t deny that. Its metaphor is plain to see all through the film. You can’t miss it, it’s punching you in the head. Repeatedly.

The problem with the film is that somewhere along the way, it forgot to be a film. I’ve seen it described as a fractured narrative, but there is no real narrative as far as I can see. Watching Charlie wheeling around vomiting out this unrelenting nonsense only serves to irritate, annoy and ultimately, yes, enrage. There is nothing to this film, just a deluge of misplaced abuse, loosely bonded together by Charlie’s interactions with a collection of paper thin characters who appear only to feed the ego of this spitting maniac.

I guess this is all meant to provoke a reaction. It provokes a reaction alright. We’re supposed to hate Charlie, he’s a prick, a egoist, a sociopath and a fraud, he’s everything that’s wrong with the upper middle class. Except that he’s not the upper middle class. This film is a fraud, it’s galling and baiting for a reaction against nothing. Charlie’s not real, he’s not representative of anything. No-one like that could exist. Well they could, but not in the form that we see here. He’s sold to us as an Irish Psycho… there’s a fundamental problem with this. Characters like Patrick Bateman and Alex work is because they’re charming, we see them being charming, and when charm doesn’t work, they’re brutally fearsome. Come to that, if you want to stretch the goverment metaphor you could say that vote grabbing is all about charm or scare-mongering too… But Charlie Casanova is neither fearsome nor charming. He’s impotent caricature of a villain. Charlie couldn’t have a wife or friends. He’s an idiot. He’s pathetic. He’s a sad joke.

Just to be clear, this isn’t me “getting” the character. Don’t see that as an apology, as a reading of the character as a metaphor for the upper middle class. What I’m saying is that the character is literally pathetic. I couldn’t give less of a shit about what the film is apparently trying to say. I felt cheated by it. I don’t hate Charlie Casanova because it’s exposing the “truth” that the country is being screwed over by an immoral controlling class who’s willing to make life altering decisions on a gamble. I don’t hate Charlie Casanova because it’s challenging me by making me confront the reality of the class system in Ireland. I don’t hate Charlie Casanova because I’m reminded every day in the news that Ireland’s economy has been brought down by hubris…

… I hated Charlie Casanova because I had to sit through ninety minutes or so of loud, repetitive, stuccato, rambling garbage… occasionally punctuated by sycophantic fawning by a variety of dimly lit, wooden mouthed morons. Who I can only assume were meant to represent the Irish people? It that what this film is trying to say? In any case, a reaction provoked by hurting my ears is not the same as a reaction provoked by my listening to the words spoken.

But enough about the failure of the theme. As I mentioned earlier, it’s also just a plain bad film.

There’s barely a narrative here. We’re thrown from scene to character to rant seemingly at random. Sub-plots are started up, only to be abandoned 2 minutes later, never to be heard again. As you’d expect from a film that’s trying to be deliberately abrasive, there are scenes designed only to shock… but they come out of nowhere, with no context, leaving the viewer more confused than affronted. I’ve already mentioned that the Charlie is a joke but at least Scanlan does a decent job. The rest of the cast middling at best. I’m not sure if that’s due to direction or talent. In a project this personal it’s difficult to know how much control the actors had. What I do know is that this is not a coherent rail against the establishment, it’s just a mess from start to finish. It plays like an ill-conceived vanity project of conspiracy theorist.

I do have to wonder though if part of my problem with the film is that I live in Ireland. Is that why I can’t accept the haphazardly drawn social context of the film? I am reminded of another film which set out to deliberate shock for political comment – A Serbian Film (review). Is this how Serbians felt about that endeavour?

Course the big difference between Charlie Casanova and A Serbian Film is that A Serbian Film actually has a plot, and characters, and there’s no-one parroting paranoid drivel at you for half the film. Ok, there’s is for part of the film, but it’s only for about 5 minutes…

… And you know what, A Serbian Film was proper balls to the wall when it comes to transgressive cinema. Like the titular character, Charlie Casanova really is impotent.

Oh, it turns out I did get motivated. Maybe when you start a rant it’s just hard to stop.



  1. comment-avatar
    The Movie WafflerMay 14, 2012 - 3:32 pm

    The worst thing I’ve ever seen in a cinema

  2. comment-avatar
    EamonsterFebruary 6, 2013 - 6:21 pm

    Pick a card from ace to five if this is worse than Anton and pick a card from six to king if it’s better.

Leave your comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to Top