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Movie Review: L'amour aux temps du Choléra

Review for 'L'amour aux temps du Choléra'
L'amour aux temps du Choléra
Genres: Drama, Romance
Running Time: 138 min
Release Date: 2007-11-16
Tags: There are no tags.
By "Chicago Tribune"

By Michael Phillips, Tribune Movie Critic
Some books put up one hell of a fight on the way to the multiplex, and they're not always the ones you'd expect. Ever since "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, much has been written about the difficulty of adapting it from page to screen. French editor Jean-Dominique Bauby wrote his memoir under unusual duress - a stroke left him paralyzed everywhere except one eye. Screenwriter Ronald Harwood and the director, Julian Schnabel, chose an obvious but apt solution. Their film reveals much of Bauby's medical predicament in voiceover, so that we hear the former high-living hedonist's interior thoughts as Schnabel shoots from his point of view. Later come the flashbacks and the shifts in perspective.
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is one of the great cinematic achievements of the year, no little thanks to Harwood, an old-style British craftsman whose script may have been revised into a new shape by Schnabel, but whose underlying structure and good dramatic sense made a major contribution. The film opens next month.
Meantime, another Harwood adaptation opens today, "Love in the Time of Cholera." I'm afraid it's pretty stiff in the joints. The adapter had a much tougher assignment with this one. Javier Bardem (presently creeping people out in "No Country for Old Men") is excellent in the leading role, but the film unfolds dutifully, without a spark, as if assembled by smart people who needed a little luck and did not get it.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote the 1985 novel, an elusive sentimental beauty. It contains very little dialogue and a great deal of fragrant observational detail, two traits that never make it easy for a screenwriter. Bardem portrays Florentino Ariza, the lovesick poet and telegraph clerk who falls in love at first sight of Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). Daza's pig of a father (John Leguizamo, having a little too much fun) forbids their union, and she ends up marrying the northern Colombian city's most eligible bachelor, Paris-trained Dr. Urbino (Benjamin Bratt). From 1879 to the early 1930s, the increasingly rich Ariza vows to keep his heart a virgin until Daza can be his. He does, however, enjoy 600-plus affairs of various shapes and sizes to fill out the waiting period.
Bardem is the chief reason to see this film. He delivers all he can in a plum role, though the stealthy horndogging that gave Marquez's novel so much of its juice has been replaced by a more decorous and weirdly neutered approach to the protagonist and his paramours, nudity notwithstanding. Bardem slips in some well-considered details, especially in his characterization of the older, elegantly mustachioed Ariza. Mezzogiorno and especially Bratt, however, struggle with the older versions of their characters. The international ensemble includes brief-ish appearances from Liev Schreiber (as Ariza's friend and romantic mentor) and, in the most easy-breathing performance besides Bardem's, the great Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro ("Central Station," "House of Sand") as Ariza's worrywort mother.
Director Mike Newell and editor Mick Audsley push it all forward at a nervous, hurry-up rhythm that works against the basic texture and appeal of Marquez. This is a story of waiting, and of what happens to a life waiting for one thing yet open to many others. Newell has done some fine work in all sorts of genres, from "Four Weddings and a Funeral" to "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," but in "Cholera" he seems to be chronicling a half-century of events, passions and desires as a tourist, not a native.
"Love in the Time of Cholera"
Directed by Mike Newell; screenplay by Ronald Harwood, based on the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; photographed by Alfonso Beato; edited by Mick Audsley; music by Antonio Pinto; production design by Wolf Kroeger; produced by Scott Steindorff. A New Line Cinema release. Running time: 2:18. MPAA rating: R (sexual content/nudity and brief language).
Florentino Ariza - Javier Bardem
Fermina Daza - Giovanna Mezzogiorno
Dr. Juvenal Urbino - Benjamin Bratt
Hildebranda Sanchez - Catalina Sandino Moreno
Don Leo - Hector Elizondo
Lotario Thurgot - Liev Schreiber
Transito Ariza - Fernanda Montenegro

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Nov 17, 2007 - Chicago Tribune
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