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Movie review: Shakira’s songs in “Love in the Time of Cholera” adds nice touch

AP Movie Critic

(AP): Much of the great joy of reading a Colombian author like Gabriel García Marquez is the fact that you’re reading him—that you’re allowing yourself to become engrossed in his florid phrasing and vivid descriptions, that he’s taking you to a fully realized place, and that you're succumbing, gladly.

Laura Harring stars as “Sara” in New Line Cinema’s release of Mike Newell’s LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA. Photo Courtesy Daniel Daza/New Line Cinema ©2007 New Line Cinema.

When a writer’s voice is as distinctive as the Colombian Nobel Prize winner's, it's difficult to replicate it on-screen, even though director Mike Newell and screenwriter Ronald Harwood remain largely faithful to “Love in the Time of Cholera'' in their wildly flawed adaptation of García Marquez’s sweeping 1985 novel about a decades-old romantic obsession.

The original songs from Shakira, who’s also from Colombia, are a nice touch. Come to think of it, she’d be more fun to watch in the role of Fermina, too.

Told mainly in flashback, ``Love in the Time of Cholera” follows the 51 years, nine months and four days from the time the young telegraph clerk Florentino first professes his love for the seemingly unattainable schoolgirl Fermina Daza (Mezzogiorno) until he catches up with her again following the accidental death of her husband (Bratt).

During that span, he takes 622 lovers (he keeps a running list of them in his journal) but longs for Fermina regardless of his companion. (One of them is played with endearing vulnerability by Laura Harring, who's woefully underused. We also see too little of Liev Schreiber as Florentino's boss and Fernanda Montenegro as his mother.)

Fermina, meanwhile, chose to marry the wealthy and far more socially acceptable Dr. Urbino; she's lived a comfortable life with him and hasn't thought of Florentino much until he shows up at her husband's funeral, expects them to pick up where they left off.

Newell (``Donnie Brasco,'' ``Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'') is all over the place in terms of tone—García Marquez realized the innate ridiculousness of his characters, while Newell plays it straight—but he does go through the motions beautifully with the help of cinematographer Alfonso Beato. The jungles are lush, the urban scenes are appropriately teeming with humanity and the homes, clothes and carriages of turn-of-the-century Cartagena are intricately textured, as you'd expect from any massive period drama such as this.

It's the actors themselves who all too often feel out of place.

Mezzogiorno is distractingly miscast as Fermina: lovely, yes, but too old to play her as a teenager and too young to be believable as a gray-haired widow. (The filmmakers wisely went with a younger actor, Unax Ugalde, to play Florentino as a teen.) Her portrayal of the character, who’s supposed to be unflappable in her haughtiness, is also surprisingly inert. Is this rather shy and personality-free Fermina the kind of woman for whom Florentino would pine—for over half a century?

Making matters worse is the arrival of Catalina Sandino Moreno (``Maria Full of Grace''), who's so wicked and sexy and vibrant as Fermina's adventurous cousin, Hildebranda, she makes you wish she'd been cast in the lead. And John Leguizamo, over-the-top as Fermina’s overprotective father, sounds laughably more like a New Yorker than the Colombian he is by birth.

 “Love in the Time of Cholera,” a New Line Cinema release, runs 138 minutes, and was released in numerous cites including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ypsilanti, Cleveland, Toledo, and Columbus on Nov. 16, 2007. PHOTO CREDITS: Laura Harring stars as “Sara” in New Line Cinema’s release of Mike Newell’s LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA. Photo Courtesy Daniel Daza/New Line Cinema ©2007 New Line Cinema







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