You would think a man who’s deluded himself into thinking he’s observed a 51-year vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love could wait a few more days before asking the object of his affection to marry him. Not Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem). As soon as he learns of the death of Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt) Florentino runs as fast as he can to propose to the deceased doctor’s grieving widow Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). Needless to say Fermina’s not impressed with her old flame’s timing. No wonder she tells him to take a hike. And so we all introduced to the three sides of a love triangle that dates back to 1880s Colombia. Like Márquez’s book director Mike Newell’s sumptuously mounted but poorly executed Love in the Time of Cholera unfolds through flashbacks to explain how Juvenal came between soul mates Florentino and Fermina. Both are young and immature when they first meet and fall in love but their plans to marry are thwarted by Fermina’s controlling father Lorenzo (John Leguizamo). He does not approve of Fermina getting hitched to a man with little money and ambition so he pushes her into the bed of the rich but compassionate Juvenal. Florentino vows to be true to Fermina to the day they can be together again. But he discovers that the only way to ease his suffering is to make a fortune in business and seduce every women he meets. Then 51 years 9 months and 4 days later Florentino learns that Juvenal is dead... The literary version of Florentino Ariza is often described as a self-made man with the heart of a poet. The same holds true for the film but Bardem also plays Florentino as though he possesses the mind of Rain Man and the characteristics of a celebrity stalker. He goes from being downright childlike as he counts the number of his sexual conquests to pretty creepy in the blink of an eye. You half expect Florentino to pick up Bardem's air gun from No Country for Old and start killing those who stand between him and Fermina. There’s also no charm to Florentino so you’re left scoffing at the notion that 622 women would sleep with him by the time Fermina is widowed. Bardem also never clearly articulates the contradictions of this man who employs sex to cure him of the pain his vow of love for Fermina has brought him. Mezzogiorno is no better as Florentino. Her Fermina is spineless aloof and unlikeable. No man in his right mind would waste his life waiting to be with this cold fish. Catalina Sandino Moreno—wasted as Fermina’s devoted gal pal—would have made a more captivating and sensual Fermina. Bratt barely maintains a straight face whenever he’s required to rattle off some truly horrendous dialogue. The worst—but most entertaining—performance comes from the Razzie-worthy Leguizamo. Everything about Leguizamo—from his maniacal look to his mangling of the English language—suggests that he thinks that he’s in Mel Brooks’ History of Love in the Time of Cholera. If only we were that lucky. Given Márquez’s unique voice and florid proses adapting Love in the Time of Cholera was always going to be a challenge for Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell and The Pianist screenwriter Ronald Harwood. Much was bound to be omitted or consolidated but what’s on screen fatally lacks passion and intrigue. This is not a testament to the power of love but an absurd examination of lust and obsession. It doesn’t help that our star-crossed lovers are obnoxious and unsympathetic. If you’re not emotionally invested in them why would you care whether they eventually end up together? Honestly it’s Juvenal who deserves better. Newell rushes through each scene with little regard for the source material but his biggest crime is to turn a blind eye to his cast's’s embarrassing performances. While the film offers a few amusing moments—all involving Bardem and a naked woman—they do not provoke the same roaring laughter as its plethora of unintentionally funny scenes. Nothing is more hilarious than watching Mezzogiorno as the elderly Fermina disrobe caked in makeup and strapped into a fat suit. This spectacle spoils what it supposed to be the film’s most intimate encounter between Florentino and Fermina. At the very least the complete ineptitude of those involved in this $50 million debacle makes for great viewing. But for this reason alone Márquez should make sure that the first Hollywood-produced film based on one of his books also is the last.
Rest assured, X-philes. Conspiracy theories, paranormal activities, unexplained phenomena -- the stuff that keeps Mulder, Sculley, and "X-Files" fanatics going -- are about to find another outlet on network TV.
While the fate of the popular Fox sci-fier is still up in the air, the network is officially rolling out plans to keep the spirit of paranoia alive in another form. So who's in charge of picking up the truth-seeking torch? Three subterranean computer geeks irregularly showcased on the sci-fi series, known as the Lone Gunmen (a k a actors Bruce Harwood , Tom Braidwood and Dean Haglund).
Top honchos at Fox confirmed on Thursday that a pilot for an "X-Files" spin-off, featuring the conspiracy-obsessed trio, has been given the go-ahead. The show's being considered for the 2000-2001 prime-time season.
Created by "X-Files" architect Chris Carter and series behind-the-sceners Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban, the offshoot is said to be a light drama with an aura of quirkiness. And even though the tenuous romance angle à la Mulder and Sculley won't be reproduced, the show will reportedly introduce similar sexual tension in the form of a competing female conspiracy theorist whom the Lone Gunmen lust after -- and resent.
In the midst of all the hubbub surrounding the spin-off, someone from the Fox and Carter camp apparently forgot to notify the Gunmen themselves. Dean Haglund, the guy with the long-hair heavy-metal do who plays Langley, took his head-scratching confusion to The Lone Gunmen fansite (http://www.deanx.com/buzz.htm) when he heard words of a "X-Files" spin-off in which he, and his other two cohorts, are tapped to be the leads. He wrote:
"I'm sure that many of you now have read about the Television Critics Association's (Hence known as the TCA) afternoon session with the heads of Fox television where they announced that Chris Carter was planning a spin-off of the lone Gunmen.
"... Anyway, we are at this thing and we have to work later that night so we have to leave early but, basically, everyone crowds around the three of us and asked us about the spin off. Now there has been a half joking rumor about this for the longest time so it was with reflex action that we all spoke to the press telling them that there was nothing to it. Then they said that the President of Fox just said so."
No word yet if Haglund and his crew are working on some sort of elaborate conspiracy theory regarding what the Lone Gunmen might call the spin-off cover-up.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.