Review: "Love in the Time of Cholera"
Love in the Time of Cholera is an embarrassing mess of a film from start to finish. After seeing Bardem’s wonderfully menacing turn in the Coen Brothers’ masterful No Country for Old Men, it is especially sad to see him surrounded by such jaw-dropping banality. Here, he stars as Florentino Ariza, a lowly telegram boy who falls for the daughter (Giovanna Mezzogiorno, in a very dull performance) of a wealthy man (John Leguizamo) in late 19th century South America, and ends up spending over 50 years pining away and waiting for her after she gets married to another man (Benjamin Bratt).
The movie spans all 53 of those years…and seems like it takes that long to do it, despite nearly constant, massive leaps in time that leave little room for emotional development, and create a rushed, episodic structure. The characters age along with the film, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the poor make-up effects, which have little to no old-age effect, and turn young Florentino into a younger Robert DeNiro from Raging Bull instead of a younger Javier Bardem.
One would expect this kind of ineptitude from lower rent, less experienced filmmakers. But Mike Newell’s last film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was a great success, and his Four Weddings and a Funeral garnered a Best Pictrue Oscar nomination. Ronald Harwood won an Academy Award just five years ago for his austere screenplay for Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. But you would never be able to tell from this film’s laughable dialogue, which sounds like it was borrowed from a particularly cheesy Hallmark card.
In fact, the whole film has the feel of a cheap romance novel crossed with a Lifetime original movie; strange considering the pedigreed literary source that the film was adapted from.
I don’t remember ever wanting so strongly to walk out of a movie before (and twice in one day, after the cloying August Rush). I just didn’t care how this movie ended, it gave me no reason to. Nobody in the film is particularly likable, and the film’s central couple have no heat or chemistry whatsoever.
Love in the Time of Cholera is dull to the point of tedium, overlong and longwinded, and with very little point. It is a cinematic travesty of truly monumental proportions - a film that never finds its tone or its footing as it becomes more and more awkward. It’s not only a missed opportunity, but a miserable failure on all levels.
GRADE - * (out of four)
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA; Directed by Mike Newell; Stars Javier Bardem, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Benjamin Bratt, John Leguizamo, Liev Schreiber, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Fernanda Montenegro; Rated R for sexual content/nudity and brief language