November 23, 2007

REVIEW: Love in the Time of Cholera (C-)

Background: Many people recognize the title of Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez's classic novel from the film Serendipity. Who knows whether that spawned the idea for a film adaptation, but it took several years to receive permission from García Márquez before director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco) took the helm. The two main characters are played by Spaniard Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) and Italian Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Facing Windows - she looked SO familiar! I completely forgot about that movie). John Leguizamo (The Pest) and Benjamin Bratt (TV's "Law & Order) offer supporting performances and easily recognizable faces for the public. Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace) also appears, adding the only authentic Colombian influence to the cast (Leguizamo is Colombian, too, but...).

Synopsis: In cholera-stricken, late-19th century Cartagena, Colombia, Florentino Ariza (Bardem) is a kind-hearted telegram delivery boy who lives with his mother. When a delivery brings him to the home of rich mule-owner Lorenzo Daza (Leguizamo), Florentino is lovestruck by Daza's daughter Fermina (Mezzogiorno). The two secretly and then publicly profess their love for each other until Daza, embarrassed to have his daughter courted by a telegram boy, moves with her to live with relatives in the countryside, where we meet Fermina's cousin Hildebranda (Sandino Moreno). When Fermina returns to Cartagena years later, the still-in-love Florentino is waiting with excitement, only to have his heart completely crushed when rejects him and their love as an "illusion." She is soon courted by and then somewhat reluctantly married to Juvenal Urbino (Bratt), a handsome doctor with a knack for diagnosing cholera. Over the course of the next 40 years, Florentino tries to get over his lost love by writing love letters and sleeping with as many (600+) women as possible, while Fermina tragically realizes she'll never experience the happiness she once had with Florentino. By the time her husband dies, she and Florentino have little time to regain their lost love.

I Loved:
+ The on location filming in Colombia - some beautiful shots.
+ Javier Bardem's performance when Fermina turns him away in the marketplace.

I Liked:
+ Catalina Sandino Moreno, though she was underutilized - it's a shame this Oscar nominee hasn't received more significant roles lately.
+ The undistracting original music by Shakira - she's Colombian, it fit.

I Disliked:
- Liev Schreiber in a bizarre cameo.
- The obligatory, unnecessary flash-forward/time warp at the beginning - can we not just see a simple story in chronological order?

I Hated:
- The unbelievably awful make-up.
- The awkward, uncomfortable final sex scene.
- John Leguizamo's impression of Marlon Brando in the scene on the patio with Bardem.

Writing - 8
Acting - 7
Production - 4
Emotional Impact - 7
Music - 5
Significance - 4

Total: 35/50= 70% = C-

Last Word: If you can get through Love in the Time of Cholera without being completely distracted by the make-up, you must have the concentration of a brain surgeon. It seemed every character was at times suffering from sunburn, psoriasis, a botched rhinoplasty, or death. Add some terrible accents (Leguizamo had 3 by my count) and mediocre acting (though Bardem was predictably good), and you're left quite disappointed. Despite Mike Newell's failure, however, the ability of García Márquez to show the joy and pain of love somehow shines through. I haven't read the book, but I'm tempted to, if only to get the bad taste of the movie out of my head. Had Love in the Time of Cholera been adapted in Spanish, firstly, and with different actors for different ages, secondly, this could have been a romantic classic. Instead we're left with a made-for-TV-quality disaster that evokes cringing and scoffing more than anything else.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails