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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Love In The Time Of Cholera

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Judy Thorburn

"Love In The Time Of Cholera" - Stilted Film Adaptation Lacks Heart and Soul

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"LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA" - STILTED FILM ADAPTATION LACKS HEART AND SOUL

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

I haven’t read the book from which the film is based. But while listening to director Mike Newell speak at the CineVegas film festival last June about making the screen adaptation of Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s acclaimed 1985 novel and then watching an extended clip my interest was piqued and couldn’t wait to see the film in its entirety.

However, after finally sitting through the screening, I realized that this was the perfect example of “anticipation being greater than realization.”

I wish I could say that the book, which is hailed as a sweeping saga of undying love has been translated to the screen in such a way as to do it justice. I had expected the story to touch at my heartstrings and fill my eyes with tears. I wanted to cry, but for all the wrong reasons.

Love in the Time of Cholera is set in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s during the devastating time of the cholera epidemic in Cartegena, Colombia. It is the story of a Florentino Ariza, who as a young man working as a telegraph operator (played by Unax Ugalde) falls helplessly in love at first sight with the pretty Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiono). Against the fierce disapproval of her wealthy and controlling father Lorenzo (John Leguizamo) who is angry as hell after hearing that she pledged to marry her young suitor, the love stricken couple are torn apart and she eventually marries the more sophisticated and handsome Dr. Juvenal Urbine (Benjamin Bratt). Years go by and as Fermina moves on with her new life with husband and growing family, she forgets her first love.

Not the case for heartbroken Florentino who continually pines for Fermina like a child ripped from his parents, and he vows to wait for her husband to die so they can be together, no matter how long it takes. Wait, he does, obsessively so. Over the course of more than fifty years, Florentino (now portrayed by Javier Bardem) drowns his sorrow by essentially turning into a male whore, having sex with over 600 women that he keeps a record of in his journal. I guess you could say he was the Wilt Chamberlain or Hugh Hefner of his era.

Noone is a fool for love more than me. I enjoy a fulfilling and compelling love story. But, this one doesn’t fit the bill due to several overwhelming negative elements that can’t be overlooked. To begin with I never was able to identify with Florentino’s undying love which seems strictly based on Fermina’s physical appearance, since it certainly couldn’t be her lackluster personality. I wasn’t drawn to Florentino’s plight or cared if he and his lost love ever came together.

You would think that every woman was so anxious to sleep with Florentino because he was the only available man in Colombia or the most gorgeous stud muffin they ever laid their eyes on. Not…. in either case.

I don’t fault both actors for their portrayal of Florentino. Unax Agalde is fine as the younger character before Javier Bardem, one of my favorite actors (brilliant in No Country for Old Men) takes over the role. Bardem does the best with what he is given, but cannot save this sinking ship. Yet, oddly enough, Giovanna Mezzogiono has the task of playing Fermina throughout the story, from age 20 to 72 and never transcends beyond bland, even at her angriest. In my opinion a better choice for the female lead would have been the more beautiful and fiery, Selma Hayak or Catalina Sandino Moreno, the actress who plays Fermina’s best friend. On the other side of the coin, John Leguizamo is terribly miscast as Fermina’s father. His over the top performance is embarrassingly bad, the worst of his career. Rather than sounding Colombian, his accent screams Latino from Brooklyn.

But, these criticisms are secondary to the fact that the most important factors: romance and passion are missing. When the pair eventually makes it to the bedroom there is no tender love scene, gentle caressing or slow romantic gestures. Florentino’s long awaited sex with Fermina does not differ from his hundreds of other past conquests; a very unsatisfying wham bam thank you ma’am, that was emotionally unfulfilling and left me cold.

It’s bad enough that women are treated as simply semen receptacles. A double standard, insulting to women is prevalent throughout. For instance, as an old, balding geezer, Florentino is comfortable with his aged body that women still crave for some ridiculous reason. But, Fermina, at 72, expounds that she has an old woman’s smell and is self conscious. How offensive, as well as preposterous a statement about women, as if men always smell like roses. Meanwhile, the makeup artists failed to do their job of believably aging Messorgiono other than adding a few crows’ lines around the actress’s eyes and some speckles of grey in her hair.

Obviously, Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) was the wrong director for this project and had difficulty balancing humor with drama. As an example, some of the dialogue that is supposed to be funny comes off as awkward and out of place. The result is an uneven tone.

What could have been a first rate production in the hands of the right director at best is handsome to look at regarding cinematography and set designs. But I can’t recommend a film that is void of real heart and soul. Sadly, the condensed film version written by Ron Harwood (Oscar winner for The Pianist) is a crashing disappointment. Like the cholera, I would recommend avoiding this ill conceived adaptation. Instead, read the book.
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