If Love in the Time of Cholera is fated to be one of this year’s worst films, then its long, leaden stomp toward wretched artlessness began when some moron hired a hack to film the words of a poet.
It’s not screenwriter Ronald Harwood to whom I object; he did a fine job with The Pianist, and wrote a very nice play called The Dresser (which was brilliantly performed onscreen by Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay in 1983; for theater snobs, it’s a modest gem of a movie). Though he’s not the most ecstatic writer, there’s at least a touch of the artist in his grim British bones.
Mike Newell on the other hand…
There’s a reason Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s went unfilmed for nineteen years, and it’s not just because the title is a little off-putting when emblazoned across a marquee. As Thomas Pynchon noted in his 1988 New York Times rave for Marquez’s novel, "It is a daring step for any writer to decide to work in love’s vernacular, to take it, with all its folly, imprecision and lapses in taste, at all seriously – that is, as well worth those higher forms of play that we value in fiction." In other words, if you’re a point-and-shoot guy saddled with a workmanlike screenplay, the probability is very high that you will reduce Marquez’s prose to cheap schmaltz.
Ladies and gentlemen: "This holiday season, comes the greatest love story ever told!"
Honestly, this looks like one of those misleading parody trailers that were all the rage for a hot second (like the one that sold The Shining as a light-hearted domestic drama). Then, after a while, you realize that this is what’s been done to one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, and you begin to seethe. And it’s not just the absurd cheeriness of the voiceover that’s objectionable; it’s John Leguizamo’s cartoonish cruelty, the inappropriately gooey music (some of which is apparently from Thomas Newman’s score for Angels in America), and the final, "You’ve Gotta Be Shittin’ Me" insult, "Songs by Shakira".
While you’re at it New Line, why don’t you hire Brett Ratner and Jeff Nathanson to direct and adapt Dreiser’s An American Tragedy featuring "Songs by Biz Markie". Actually… yes, why don’t you do that?
I’m having a hard time keeping an open mind on this movie, but if it’s better than I anticipate, I’ll compose a 4,000 word prose rhapsody in its honor when it opens on November 16th.