Film Reviews

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA

By • Nov 16th, 2007 •

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Beloved book, lousy movie. He ages to 72, she stops aging at 35.He stays virile, she crumbles. He cries a lot while having sex with 600 desperately horny Columbian women. He’s the only potent man in the country.

Here’s the standard I go by. If I walk out of the theater and say, “I want to read the book,” then the movie worked. With CHOLERA, I walked out thankful I never read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, whose appeal has to be the weepy premise that a woman could be loved (for her beauty alone) over 55 years, even if she doesn’t deserve it. CHOLERA is the story of a man, Florentino (Javier Bardem), who uses women for sex and keeps a list he brags about (seems the whole town knows the ongoing tote) while flattering himself that he could never commit to a relationship because he is in love with a pretty woman, Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), he saw when he was 18 years old.

All “lifelong bachelors” should use this excuse. “Lifelong bachelors” say, “I’m married to my work.” Now they should say, “I’m keeping myself a virgin for [insert a female name here].”

With the hundreds of women Florentino has met and slept with, not one compares to Fermina. He was the George Clooney of his day!

Marquez, who was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote CHOLERA in 1985. The Nobel judging committee must be a bunch of old men with prostate problems.

CHOLERA shows every Columbian woman (strangers grab him as he walks down the street) as desperate for sex and hungry for Florentino’s throbbing manhood. What is wrong with all the other men in Columbia? His conquests swoon and quiver over him. At one point, even Florentino‘s mother wildly throws herself at him. To be fair, she’s gone senile, but still. Even when 72 years old, a hungry teenager lusts over Florentino, begging for seconds! She’s crushed when he tells her he will marry his fantasy woman.

I know. I missed the whole point of the novel: Selfless, everlasting love with plenty of tears. But this weepy saga wants it both ways. Florentino cries while sleeping with everything (but not young boys) that moves. He is praised for this achievement. Other men want to know why he is so good with women. His answer goes something like this: They know I am suffering from a love I cannot have. Women long to fill my aching heart.

And Florentino’s hair color knows no rule. In many scenes, it can’t decide whether it is blond, black, red, or white. You can watch it change colors.

Young Florentino Ariza is a poor man (Unax Ugalde) infatuated with Fermina Daza, daughter of wealthy Lorenzo Daza(John Leguizamo). Fermina is Lorenzo’s jewel (he looks at her with creepy lust) and he demands she marry well, instead of bothering with a lovesick puppy. Lorenzo moves her to the country when told she pledged to marry Florentino. She eventually marries Doctor Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt), who oozes not only an elegant charm, but is outrageously sexy.

Florentino waits for 53 years and finally Juvenal drops dead. He immediately goes to Fermina. After again pursuing her with a stalker’s vengeance, she goes off with him on a riverboat tour. He wants to make love but Fermina, looking all of 35, tells him to stay away from her, she “smells like an old woman.” Florentino, the old coot, smells like a freshly picked daisy. When he finally talks her into bed, she does not want him to see her aged body. Florentino is fine with his 72-year- old body.

Women of a certain age are wise and know their physical attractiveness has diminished, but this goes to prove men have no such hang-ups. Quite the contrary.

Florentino, finally winning his prize, showers her with love. Ah, so this is what made the book so popular. What woman doesn’t want to have a man long for, and wait for her, for 53 years?

Bardem, so brilliant and haunting in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, tries his best here to tackle being sexy, goofy, silly, and a hysterical crybaby. Mezzogiorno, as an actress, didn’t seem to notice that her character never aged. Her close-ups at 72 were as lovely as when she was supposed to be 20. But I kept thinking that her masculine face and stern manner did nothing to endear all the men who loved her above all other women.

Was THE PIANIST screenplay a fluke? Oscar-winning screenwriter Ronald Harwood wrote this. It is indeed beautiful to look at but the screenplay and directing were embarrassing.

I kept hoping Florentino and Fermina would come down with cholera.

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