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April 04, 2008
Review - " Love in the Time of Cholera " (on DVD) - By Roland Hansen
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Love in the time of cholera

Directed by Mike Newell. Starring: Javier Bardem, Giovana Mezzoglorno, John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt,
& Hector Elizondo

Love in the Time of Cholera is an epic romance about a love that refuses to die.

I went into this movie with no preconceived notions, I had never read the book and had no idea what the
story was about. In fact the only knowledge I had of the story was a reference to the book in the movie
There are enough naked breasts to satisfy the adolescent boy in all of us. In fact the first
one (or should I say two) show up just 4 minutes into the movie. You will most definitely
not have to walk out.

At times the movie seems over long at 139 minutes and often drags, especially early on.

The movie opens with this man approaching his beloved just after the funeral of her
husband, ignoring her tears, oblivious to her sorrow, dismissing her bereavement,
seemingly utterly insensible to her feelings, and instead nobly declaring his undying love
for her. He seems not so much as a man in love with her, but rather in love with his
fantasy of love. No wonder she reacts with such rage.
The story takes place over a period of more than 50 years, starting in turn of the century Columbia, amidst lofty mountains,
shining rivers, lush tropical forests and picturesque towns. Set amongst a backdrop of disease, war and a lifetime of longing.
The landscape was visually beautiful and shown to us through spectacular cinematography. It is told from the perspective of
Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) a humble telegraph delivery boy. He is sent to deliver a telegram to the rich, ambitious
Senior Daza (John Leguizamo). There he first lays eyes on Daza’s lovely teen-age daughter, Fermina (Giovana
Mezzoglorno). Florentino falls in love at first sight. They start writing letters to one another, each professing their undying
love. Her father discovers their amore and sends her away to the interior in order to separate the two. Of course working at
the telegraph office he finds it easy for them to continue their surreptitious correspondence through telegrams. After two
years she returns to Cartagena. Upon seeing him after 2 years Fermina realizes he was just a fantasy, what she felt was not
real, as she says “He is an illusion”. Florentino is devastated. At the request of his mother his Caring Uncle, Don Leo (Hector
Elizondo), finds Florentino a job far away. On his way down river there is a very humorous incident in which he loses his
virginity to a rather brazen young woman. He discovers his reason to go on in his pants. Florentino decides to ease the pain
of his lost love in the beds of as many other women as possible. This is not a particularly new concept, this theme has been
presented in countless movies from Billie Crystal in “When Harry Met Sally”, Fred Savage in “The Last Run” to Hugh Jackman
in “Someone Like You” and even Jude law in “The Holiday”.  Florentino keeps score in a journal with such facts as who the
the woman was and what was memorable or not about the occasion. When
asked half a century later what number he is up to he states, matter of factly,
without any bragging at all, that he is at 633. This may seem like a lot to the
average guy but when you do the math, over 50 years it amounts to only one
woman a month so is entirely feasible. Through the film you witness a few of
his conquests and see that he has become quite adept at the art of
seduction. Over the years he has devoted himself to two things, the pursuit of
wealth and the pursuit of women, and has succeeded marvelously at both. He
has failed at only the one thing he wants above all else and that is acquiring
the one love of his life, Fermina .

The quiet, calm performance of Javier Bardem in Cholera and Goya’s Ghosts
truly underscores the phenomenal Delta Award winning performance he gave
in last years “No Country for Old Men”. Bardem’s superb perfomance truly
carried the movie. John Leguizamo (if you pardon the overused cliche) chews
up the scenery whenever he is on screen. I just can’t get passed his comic
performances in “To Wong Foo” and “Ice Age” and the diminutive Toulouse
Lautrec in “Moulin Rouge”.  He does a passable job but truly seems miscast
as the ruthless father. Giovana Mezzoglorno is stunningly beautiful as Fermina. She plays a teenage girl in the throws of
puppy love beautifully, with wide-eyed wonder and innocence, but seems cold and distant as her character matures. It’s hard
to dislike Benjamin Bratt’s  Doctor Juvemal Urbino. He is a rich and arrogant aristocrat but also comes across as a truly
sensitive and caring man. He is especially poignant and tender in the somewhat amusing wedding night scene.

For my part I am not a big believer in love as first sight. Physical beauty is superficial and fleeting.  It is nearly impossible to
accept that someone could truly fall in love simply by looking at another without getting to know them. Perhaps it is better that
Florentino was kept from Fermina so his obsession could grow to the point where his love was unbreakable because he
wasn't exposed to her flaws. There was nothing to cloud his illusion of her perfection. Often the ending of a film can make or
break the movie experience for me. I found the ending to be highly satisfying and emotional. I liked this film but can see how
this wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. If you like epic romances watch Love in the Time of Cholera. For the more
conventional romantic viewer I would recommend “Definitely, Maybe” or “27 Dresses”