Original Sin

Directed by Michael Cristofer
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie, Julian Sedgwick, Jack Thompson, Joan Pringle.
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content and some violence.

Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <evy@filmhead.com>
August 21, 2001

Well, I asked for it. I wanted to see this movie months ago in March -- before the release date got pushed back to the beginning of August. I thought that no matter how horrible the plot, the film would be saved by the beauty of Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie as well as by their considerable acting talents. I was not counting on Michael Cristofer's inane direction and horrid screenplay. In the following two paragraphs I give away the tone of the ending so skip to the last paragraph, if you care.

We are told twice by Jolie's totally unnecessary voice over that "This is not a love story but a story about love." We are promised a tale of the dangers of obsession, of the darker side of love, a tragic tale where, as the advertising tells us, "Love kills." But NOOOOOOOOOO love does not kill after all, or at least it does not kill the right people! Antonio Banderas plays Luis Vargas, the wealthy owner of a coffee plantation. He arranges though letters to marry an innocent and homely girl from Delaware. When his bride to be shows up, it is not the homely girl he expected but Angelina Jolie. He marries her and surprise -- she runs off with his money and his heart which she has won through a lengthy display of soft-core pornography. Vargas becomes obsessed with this woman and hunts her down to kill her.

So far so good, but then the movie becomes a John Hughes love story set in 19th century Cuba. Rich boy falls in love with girl from the wrong side of the tracks, or ocean in this case. She loves him, but their worlds are too different and things are further complicated by the girl's former lover, also from the wrong side of the tracks. Vargas doesn't kill his love, in fact everything works out okay in the end. That's right -- this is a film about obsessive love that ends happily!

The real tragedy of this movie is that it was based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich, the same man who wrote the story for Rear Window and other hard boiled thrillers in the 40s and 50s. Thank goodness Mr. Woolrich is dead so that he would not have to see what Cristofer did to his tale. The dialogue whips back in forth between film noir one-liners and trashy romance novel innuendoes . Very little of the dialogue seems appropriate to the setting or even the characters. The plot twists (besides the ending) are telegraphed to the audience through camera pans, dialogue, long meaningful stares, and close ups. The ending is only a surprise because it is so ludicrous and inappropriate to the rest of the film.

The two stars are beautiful and much of their flesh is displayed, but they could not save this movie. Jolie's acting was a disappointment. She plays the seductress very well, but she did not turn off the seduction when needed. She seems to be seducing everyone, including the housemaid and the priest to whom she is confessing her love of Vargas. Of course this might be the strain of playing a women so oversexed that she is convinced to betray her true love by a good hand job from her former lover.

The strength of Banderas' acting is the second tragedy. He is magnificent in this movie, especially when you consider the things he has to do and say. There may be a fine line between love and hate, but no actor should be asked to cross that line over and back again in the space of three lines of dialogue. Banderas leaps from one emotion to the next with great dexterity and manages to make his ludicrously gullible and over-passionate character believable. The entire star that I gave this disaster is for him and nothing and nobody else. What a shame that such a wonderful performance has to be wasted in such a miserable movie.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Original Sin (2001)

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Original Sin (2001) -- VHS
Original Sin (2001) - R-rated Version -- DVD
Original Sin (2001) - Unrated Version -- DVD
Original Sin: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc

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