As seen with Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000), it is possible to have a very clear anti-hero up on the big screen which can still pull an audience in. Christian Bale’s elitist misogynist had layers to him expressed in ways that kept one’s interest even though it was mostly an appalled sort of interest. Terry McMahon’s Charlie Casanova clearly has a similar sort of aspiration but on a much lower budget.
Using loaned video cameras and a crew working for free (found through a Facebook request) McMahon’s film features the unraveling of Charlie, a Celtic Tiger social psychopath unmasking himself to the audience by his narration, long speeches and murderous actions. Staying at a hotel for a work conference, Charlie (Hollyoaks regular Emmett Scanlan) shares dinner and talks with his wife, two friends and their wives. Going out to the local shop, Charlie is involved in a hit and run and from there his life and grip on reality begins to come undone.
It would be difficult to see how this film could have gotten made unless it was self-financed. The story is based on a muddled, unhinged mind which is reflected far too much in this bloated screenplay. Charlie is not meant to be a likeable character but it is very difficult to suspend believe that anyone could ever tolerate his preposterous social commentaries or rampant misogyny. There is a slight thread of charisma within Charlie, though this quickly evaporates as the director chooses to the keep the camera tight and intense on Scanlan’s face. There is also the over-played narrative device of Charlie basing all of his decisions on the draw of a playing card and forcing others to do the same.
The film is intent on commenting on a perverted male approach to society as Charlie insists on seeing himself as the new money social elite in Irish society, entitled to have a consequence and conscience-free life. True, this film is from Charlie’s perspective but the character’s narration bogs down the film even further by force feeding the audience with Charlie’s incessant ramblings. One begins to suspect that there is meant to be truth to Charlie’s observations instead of reflecting a deranged mind.
With a running time of just 94 minutes, it seems Charlie Casanova would be more tolerable were it trimmed even further, perhaps better as an unnerving short film. Leigh Arnold comes out best as Una but Emmett Scanlan’s Charlie appears to suffer from a lack of direction. This has pretensions towards being an Irish American Psycho but fails quite dramatically. An overly long, muddled script with very little directorial finesse, this is one to avoid.