In Love in the Time of Cholera, director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) attempts to bring Gabriel Garcia Marquez's popular novel about a sweeping love triangle in turn-of-the-century Columbia to the screen. Unfortunately he fails, he fails quickly, and he fails hard.
Love in the Time of Cholera follows the life of Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem), a young telegraph clerk who becomes smitten with beautiful Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) when he spies her through a window. He quickly sets about trying to woo her with poetry. But when she spurns him in favor of rich doctor Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt), he spends his life trying to cope with the loss and figure out how to win her back.
Love in the Time of Cholera is ill-fated virtually from its first seconds, opening with the characters in visible, terrible age make-up. Then, when we finally go back in time, Newell chooses to use two different actors to play the role of Florentino (Unax Ugalde as the teenage Florentino and then Bardem for the rest of his life), but the same actress (Mezzogiorno) to play Fermina. Newell says he made this decision because he was in the predicament of not being able to get Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Collateral) as young as he needed and not being able to find a good actress that looked like Mezzogiorno, but it just reads as sloppy. As does the fact that all the actors have noticeably different accents (Bardem is Spanish, Hector Elizondo and John Leguizamo are Nuyorican, Catalina Sandino Moreno is Columbian, Fernanda Montenegro is Brazilian, and Mezzogiorno is Italian), yet they are all trying to play Columbian.
It's also hard to believe that such a bad script came out of writer Ronald Harwood--the same man who wrote the beautiful The Pianist and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. But the story is simply too epic to be covered in this way. As a result, Love in the Time of Cholera becomes a hodge-podge of histrionic, ridiculous scenes cobbled together with no build up. It is an utter disappointment.