Made on a pile of pennies, with a cast and crew assembled from a posting on Facebook, it’s a miracle that Terry McMahon’s Charlie Casanova ever saw the light of day. "Intend shooting no budget feature, ‘Charlie Casanova’ a provocatively dark satire, in the first couple of weeks of January. Need cast, equipment, locations, and a lot of balls. Any takers?" was McMahon’s message in January 2010.
Fast-forward two years that have included a lot of blood, sweat and tears - as well as the calling in of a copious amount of favours - and McMahon has seen his vision released in Ireland and London. Oh, and it’s also worth noting that along the way Mr. C.C. has enjoyed festival success around the world and even garnered five IFTA nods prior to its release.
McMahon isn’t expecting everyone to like this movie; in fact he is quite happy, as he told me, if some people hate it. He wants it to cause a great divide between its audience – so much so that he calls on them to stand up and shout and stamp and shake their heads in disgust or applaud and whoop in delight. Now, it's hard to see that type of reaction from an Irish cinema audience, but the film definitely has become a talking point.
So, what is it all about? Well, Charlie Casanova (Scanlan) is a self-obsessed, arrogant product of the Celtic Tiger who hates the tracksuit-wearing generation in Dublin. He has brought his friends and business partners to a swanky hotel on a conference for the weekend and this is where the dark and, quite frankly, nasty games begin.
It all kicks off when Charlie kills a girl in a hit-and-run accident and uses a deck of cards to help him decide what to do next. The game takes on a life of its own as he coaxes his wife, friends and colleagues to join in with his twisted idea of entertainment. Soon they are crossing lines and betraying everything they know as they get sucked deeper and deeper into his sociopathic madness, leaving the stage set for everyone’s lives to change – forever.
What follows is a controversial, confrontational and deeply disturbing tirade of abuse from Charlie, aimed at those around him, working-class Ireland and you, the paying audience. While Scanlan has immersed every inch of his being into playing Charlie, the movie can at times be hard to watch and it actually makes you itch with annoyance as he rambles on and on with garbled monologues and off-kilter views.
It’s gritty, it’s grimy, it’s grey, and at times it leaves you feeling like you are sitting in an anonymous room with an annoying fluorescent strip-light flickering overhead. It wasn’t my kind of movie, but I wouldn’t say don’t go see it. Be warned, though: don’t expect a light-hearted popcorn romp. Instead, be prepared to grimace, question and put your Ben & Jerry’s down in disgust.