Release Date: Nov. 16
Director/Writer: Mike Newell
Cinematographer: Affonso Beato
Starring: Javier Bardem, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Benjamin Bratt, Liev Schreiber, John Leguizamo
Studio/Run Time: New Line Cinema, 128 mins.
Like most adaptations of great works of literature, Love in the Time of Cholera suffers from the blessing of a great story and the curse of extremely high expectations. Although an adaptation can be enjoyable, oftentimes fans of the original find themselves disappointed by the resulting film, disliking it for what they think it "should" be rather than what it is.
In Cholera, Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) pursues the love of Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) despite the differences in their families' economic statuses. Fermina's father sends her away after finding out about her infatuation and eventually she marries a doctor he finds more acceptable, leaving Florentino alone yet still pining for her love. This drives him to become a notorious womanizer as well as a financial success in his attempt to become something that she would find attractive.
Márquez's book is so dense that even a relatively lackluster (and sometimes preposterously dialogued) adaptation is left with a great deal of depth. Cholera ends up less about the couple's specific love and more a meditation on the relationship between the physical body and love, with cholera itself both a metaphor for the couple's love and indicative of the gaps from this type of representation. The film focuses on a changing point of view in terms of how the body and emotions should interact in such a way that its story is just as much about this thematic subplot as it is about the specific characters.
It's easy to take issue that the film excises nearly all of the book's passion, but this misses the consistency in how all of the film's components interact. Mike Newell's directing is oddly fitting for the rest of the film's elements, as are Bardem and Mezzogiorno's performances. Although the characters are at times a little unbelievable, the actors lack pretension and allow the film to move itself without any dynamite sections. The method of understatement where others might try for something pyrotechnic makes the movie's simple tale work on its own terms rather than drawing attention to itself.
While the experience of watching the film is different from reading the book, the cinmeatic version recognizes this. Rather than attempting to supplant the original, it instead focuses on retelling the important parts of the story in a different manner. No, Love in the Time of Cholera is not the masterpiece that its source material is, but by choosing not to top the original it still ends up mostly succeeding as a film.