Coming across like some Irish blend of American Psycho and “The Dice Man”, Charlie Casanova is a very good, if slightly inconsistent, film that I have had to mull over quite a bit before forming this review and final rating.
Emmett Scanlan, in a superb performance, plays Charlie Barnum, a man who decides to just remove himself from the boundaries of society and to leave all of the major choices to a deck of cards. But letting cards answer questions is only a great way to go through life if you ask the right questions, according to this sociopath, and those questions involve sex, death, revenge and all of the darker thoughts lurking in the back of your mind. As Charlie gets more emboldened the impact upon the lives of his friends becomes much more pronounced.
Where Charlie Casanova succeeds is in the many great moments it maintains contact with a character who almost always steps over the mark and makes things increasingly uncomfortable. Charlie is often quite charismatic and it’s easy to go along with someone, no matter how abhorrent, with such a gleam in his eye. The direction and the script, from actor-turned-first-time-director Terry McMahon, are handled well enough though it’s clear at times that the movie overreaches slightly.
Many of Charlie’s rants/monologues end up using a word content that’s more quantity over quality and the start of the film is a bit more confusing than it could have been thanks to the audience not having time to get to know the established characters while the main chain of events is kickstarted.
The other main problem I had with the film is just how Charlie had accumulated and kept hold of the friends that stay beside him while he tries to dominate the conversation and convert everyone to his own particular worldview. Charlie becomes quite mesmerising for the audience but never really seems to be the kind of guy that you’d want as a friend or at a dinner party, for example.
The cast are all very good but are a little lost, ironically, in that opening shuffle of scenes. Characters seem almost interchangeable and are all just supporting players to Charlie, which may well arguably be the point. So the fact that Scanlan is SO good in the lead role is a huge plus point for the film.
Part fantastical psycho flick, part domestic drama and part overview of the class system and people uncomfortable with their place in society, Charlie Casanova certainly leaves a lasting impression and shows a lot of promise for future endeavours from the director and fearless star.
Charlie Casanova is showing in the EIFF on Fri 24 June and Sat 25 June at The Filmhouse and is worth seeing if you don’t mind some time spent wriggling in discomfort while being stuck beside such an unsavoury character.
DIRECTOR: TERRY MCMAHON
STARS: EMMET SCANLAN, LEIGH ARNOLD, DAMIEN HANNAWAY
RUNTIME: 90 MINS APPROX