Thursday, March 27, 2008


No cure for Cholera

By Edward Copeland
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the best books I've ever read. It also had an unusual quality (at least for me) in that as I read it, I could visualize making a film out of it. Usually, my reading seldom conjures images of possible movie versions. The only other example I can think of is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and there I didn't imagine how to make a movie of it but thought that I was the only person in the world suitably for playing Ignatius J. Reilly. Needless to say, when I heard a movie was being made of Marquez's masterpiece, I had great trepidation and the lukewarm reviews the Mike Newell's film discouraged me from seeing it in the theater, choosing to wait for the DVD.

The way Newell opens the film almost matches what I visualized in the movie in my mind, with one big exception: Part of the joy of the book is its mixture of romantic longing and dark comedy and in the opening and throughout the entire film, Newell botches the laughs. When he goes for them, the jokes land with a thud.

He has a bit more success with the other elements, but overall the entire film seems tone deaf. Of course, the whole effort could have been worse.

I remember when the news of a film adaptation was first floated with the ugly rumor that they were going to cast Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Thankfully, they went with Javier Bardem as the lead (my own choice) and an actress I wasn't familiar with (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) as the object of his romantic obsession.

The film also pulls off the difficult trick of aging actors without making the makeup look silly. They also did a great job casting the young version of Bardem's character with Unax Ugalde, who bears a startling resemblance to Bardem.

Most of the other performances are good as well, particularly Hector Elizondo as Bardem's uncle and the great Fernanda Montenegro in the first film I've seen her in since Central Station.

If I could have made the film though, one other thing I would have done was actually film it in Spanish, to get another sense of its language since I read the book in its English translation. Nice try overall, but read the book.

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I had a similar reaction to the film. I certainly didn't hate it but it was dragged down by nearly everything aside from its good looks and excellent acting (particularly from Bardem). And my mother was *very* disappointed that it wasn't in Spanish.
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