Love in the Time of Cholera (15)

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The Independent Culture

I know, I know, this ought to be the big event of this week, if not this year. A beloved book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, adapted by Ronald Harwood (hot property after The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral! Donnie Brasco!), and starring Javier Bardem: what could go wrong?

What goes wrong is that a saga of chastity and sensuality stretched over 50 years is turned into a handsomely mounted but essentially dull piece of period whimsy. The story concerns a young telegraph clerk (Bardem) who, unable to marry the woman of his dreams, forswears sex until, waylaid by a desperate woman, he is launched into a belated career as a Casanova; but all this sex is only marking time until he can finally win his beloved back.

The Colombian scenery is lush, but the central love affair is curiously arid. Bardem cuts too worldly a figure, so that his womanising and even the final consummation of his first love feel opportunistic; and next to him both Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Benjamin Bratt, as the beloved and her husband, are underpowered.

Watch the trailer for 'Love in the Time of Cholera'.