There's no reason an Englishman shouldn't take on a landmark in Latin American literature. Four Weddings and a Funeral
, after all, proves Mike Newell has a feel for romance. Adapted by The Pianist's
Ronald Harwood, Love in the Time of Cholera
is an epic vision of true love. For all the talent involved, however, this lush realisation of the Gabriel García Márquez novel never takes flight. Newell begins with a death before backtracking 50 year to the late-1800s, with Florentino (Unax Ugalde), a poetry-writing telegraph operator living in an unnamed city (the movie was filmed in Cartagena, Columbia) who spots the graceful Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) while making his rounds, and that's it--he's in love. While Florentino's mother (Central Station's
Fernanda Montenegro) encourages the courtship, Fermina's father (John Leguizamo
in over-the-top mode) forbids it. Years pass, and the well-born Dr. Urbino (Benjamin Bratt
) treats Fermina for a case of cholera. Then, Urbino proposes. Fermina accepts. A distraught Florentino (now played by Javier Bardem
) decides to wait. With the help of his uncle (a sprightly Hector Elizondo), he amasses wealth of his own. All the while, he drifts from woman to woman. After five decades of waiting, he gets a second chance to win Fermina's heart, and it's easier said than done. Florentino's journey is absorbing, but Newell's film lacks the passion and complexity of Marquez's prose. The actors give it their all, but Love in the Time of Cholera
is more of a pleasant diversion than a life-changing experience. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel Love in the Time of Cholera
straddles the line between pop and art, and manages to be both a bestseller and a literary masterpiece. With an excellent cast and a timeless story, Mike Newells cinematic adaptation strives for that same balance. As a young man in 19th-century Colombia, Florentino Ariza (played primarily by Javier Bardem) falls in love with a beautiful woman named Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). But an overprotective father (John Leguizamo) and too much reality intrude on their romance, and Fermina marries a successful doctor, Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt). But a wedding ring--and the passing decadesaren't enough to dissuade Florentino from his love, even as he beds hundreds of women as he tries to get over his undying passion.
Screenwriter Ronald Harwood (The Pianist
) distills Garcia Marquez's novel--which spans more than 50 years and almost 400 pages--into an accessible film. The basic element of the bookFlorentino's love for Fermina--remains intact, and it's driven by yet another excellent performance from Bardem. Fans who were impressed by his masterly turn as a cold-blooded killer in No Country For Old Men
will be pleasantly surprised that the Spanish actor can be just as adept playing a character driven by love. As in his previous work such as Four Weddings and a Funeral
and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
, director Mike Newell has assembled another fine cast that also includes Liev Schreiber, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Hector Elizondo.