in the Time of Cholera begins with
the death of an elderly patriarch (Benjamin Bratt). This is soon
followed by a declaration of love to his widow Fermina (Giovani
Mezzogiorno) by a wealthy industrialist named Florentino (Javier
The film then backtracks 50 odd years to Columbia, 1879, where Fermina
and Florentino fall in love at first sight.
A secret courtship ensues unawares to Fermina's strict authoritarian
father (John Leguizamo). However, it does not take long for him
to find out about their forbidden love, moving her far away from
Florentino's reach and arranging a marriage with Dr. Juvenal Urbino
Heart broken, Florentino tries to move on by devouring himself in
the pleasures of the flesh, moving from one conquest to another.
In the process, director Mike Newell gives it all he can in trying
to bring Gabriel Garcia Marquez's sweeping romance novel to the
big screen. However, the only thing he accomplishes is creating
a sickly sweet, highly erotic, and at times humorous melodrama,
which does not meet the high expectations placed on it.
First things first: the look of this film is fantastic. Shot on
location in Columbia - at the urging of the countries Vice President
- cinematographer Affonso Beato provides striking photography of
the South American country's beautiful scenery.
The art direction by Jonathan McKinstry and his team, as well as
the set designs by Ali Griff, are spectacular. The same goes for
Marit Allen's costume design and the superb make up effects, which
successfully ages the actors.
Yet for all of its lush production design and its abundant talk
of love, this is a film that comes off feeling surprisingly empty.
A lot of this comes down to its script, which was written by Oscar
winning screenwriter Roger Harwood, who was charged with the daunting
task of bringing Marquez's words to life.
The dialogue in particular is rather poor, as Marquez's sweet nothings
just do not translate well on the big screen. Perhaps keeping the
films dialogue to its original Spanish would have made a difference.
One thing is for sure: it would have suited the films environment
The films shaky script no doubt had an effect upon its performers.
This is a shame, as the cast features three of my favourite Latino
leading men in Benjamin Bratt, who puts on the charm as Fermina's
want to be suitor; John Leguizamo, who spits venom as her over protective
father; and Javier Bardem, who plays the polar opposite of his No
Country for Old Men hitman, expressing a well of emotions as the
lovelorn poet consumed and devoured by love for his Fermina, who
is played well by the steel blue eyed Italian actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno.
But try as they might, they cannot add spirit to a spirit-less,
yet beautiful looking film. This is not the passionate love story
I thought it would be.