Those who have read Gabriel García Márquez's glowing and sexy 1988 novel about one man's grand love for a woman who marries another are bound to be peevishly disappointed by Love in the Time of Cholera. And those who haven't read the book will now never understand the ardor of those who have at least not based on all the hammy traipsing and coupling and scene-hopping thrown together here.
Either way, literature is poorly served. But then, so are moviegoers numbed by all the elaborate costumes and distracting stunt-aging makeup in this turgid and lifeless movie adaptation. As for the splendid Spaniard Javier Bardem, now knocking socks off in No Country for Old Men, his lot is worst of all. He's miscast as the romantic Florentino, doggedly devoted to his ''crowned goddess,'' Fermina (Italian actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno, unexceptional except for her facial resemblance to Debra Winger), even after she spurns him to become the wife of a doctor (Benjamin Bratt). And not knowing what else to do with his earthiness, Bardem squishes his natural confidence unconvincingly under Florentino's dorky hat and makes moony eyes of longing.
Given free rein to make a freewheeling television miniseries, a filmmaker like Alfonso Cuarón might have known what to do with García Márquez's muchness. But working with a toneless movie script by Ronald Harwood, fellow Harry Potter director Mike Newell, alas, doesn't. D