Jolie: 1280x544 film clips (samples below)
Scoop's notes, written in 2002. COMPLETE
I kinda ripped on the movie, but I later chose
the Jolie/Banderas sex scenes to be included in the
best nude scenes of the millennium.
So it's got that goin' for it ...
I think I'm going to surprise you with what I am about
to say. I'm the guy who asked why the hell Blake Edwards thought it was a
wise idea to remake a Truffaut movie as a Burt Reynolds film (The
Man Who Loved Women). You would therefore expect me to hate the entire
idea of this lavish Hollywood remake of another Truffaut movie (Mississippi
Mermaid), but I don't feel that way. Mississippi Mermaid was not an
exceptionally good Truffaut movie. Although the idea had merit, it was
filled with inexplicable behavior and illogical plot twists.
I think it was a good idea to remake it.
Before you unload on me and my obvious lack of taste,
let me set the record straight. I am not telling you that Original Sin is
a great movie, and I'm not recommending it. The fact that I don't object
to a remake doesn't mean I endorse this particular execution of that idea,
although I think it is a reasonable screen representation of the kind of
plot and atmosphere represented by Cornell Woolrich's "Waltz into
Darkness", the novel which formed the basis for both Truffaut's film and
The basic summary: a mail order bride shows up on an
island. She's not at all what the groom expected. He was waiting at the
docks for a plain woman, and was confronted with a knock-out. Her story,
"I didn't want you to send for me because I had a pretty face. I sent a
picture of my ugly cousin." He believed it, because he had done something
very similar himself. He told her that he was a simple worker when in fact
he owned the factory/plantation, because he didn't want her to come
because she had seen a pretty bank account.
Believing her, however, was a big mistake. She was a con
artist who had conspired with her boyfriend to murder the real mail order
bride and clean out the groom.
Frankly, Truffaut's film had a serious problem with
inexplicable character motives. When the con woman cleaned out the rich
guy's bank accounts, there was no motivation for her to do that. She was
trading down. What kind of con is that? She had the greatest life
imaginable with a rich guy with impeccable manners who looked like a movie
star and completely adored her. She would have been far better off telling
him the truth and staying with him rather than cleaning out a couple of
bank accounts and ending up right back where she was again in a couple of
years. The only possible explanation for her actions is that her unseen
partner-in-crime had an inexplicably strong hold on her, something that
she just couldn't break. But the Truffaut movie never explained that.
In the remake, they had a bizarre sadistic/masochistic
co-dependency relationship that dated back to childhood, which could
explain how he controlled her, but the screenwriter added a further
clarification as well. The con woman WAS going to stay with the rich guy,
until he made her write a letter to "her sister" - actually the murdered
woman's sister - which forced her to end the game.
Unfortunately, both versions of the story have a massive
logic error. In theory, the con woman and her partner killed the real mail
order bride on the ship. They flung her overboard and concocted a scheme
to impersonate her. Do you see the big problem with this set-up? The mail
order bride didn't know she was going to marry a rich man. She thought she
was going to the island to marry a mere foreman! Why would anyone decide
to bump her off and take her place to con a poor man?
Conning the poor has never been an especially lucrative
(Well, to be more precise, conning one poor person has
never been very rewarding. On the other hand, if you choose to do it en
masse, as do the TV evangelists, it seems to be pretty fruitful.)
The new version of the story pretty much follows the
Truffaut film for 75 minutes - until the bride is rediscovered by the rich
man after her flight, at which point he intends to kill her, but is
dissuaded by the story of her life, a tragic tale of woe.
After that point, however, Original Sin becomes a
completely different film, filled with staged deaths, cons, counter-cons,
unexpected revelations, and about ten completely unbelievable plot twists.
It piles twist upon twist, but frankly, none of them are really very
surprising once you realize that they are simply going to pull out all of
Truffaut's film really focused on obsession, and the
plot was kept fairly simple to allow him to focus on the rich man, who
loved the con woman even after he knew she was an imposter. The new film
is really plot-driven. I don't think it was handled properly. When a film
is based on the plot, and the plot is based on secrets, you have to let it
unravel naturally. This film is directed by someone who just can't keep a
secret, and it spoils the fun. When the rich man and the con woman are
first living together, he completely ignores some warning signs that she's
lying. She smells of cigars and she tells him she smoked one of his. He
catches her with another guy and she explains that she was asking for
directions. She loves her morning coffee, even though she had written him
that she never drinks anything but tea. C'mon now. There are two problems
with this line of presentation:
1. Are we supposed to believe that he is really that
obtuse? Being obsessed is one thing, but complete stupidity is quite
2. Even though he can't see the scam, we can. The clues
would have been obvious enough, but the film's framing device shows her
telling her story from prison at the beginning of the film. Therefore,
when she is revealed to be an imposter, there is no surprise for us. If a
film is driven by plot surprises, what is left when the surprises are not
What makes it worse is that there are so many
off-the-wall plot twists. A film can be fun if it leads us to think one
thing, then drops an opposite bombshell on us when we really don't expect
it. A film may even get away with doing this more than once. But once we
become aware that the changes of direction are the entire raison d'etre of
the movie, we expect everything to be a con, and are therefore
subsequently unsurprised to find that things differ from their appearance.
We knew it already, because everything in the film is that way. We've
received a written invitation to our own surprise party, and we can't even
pretend we're surprised.
David Mamet can get away with that because he is
brilliant enough to manage an ambience where the absence of a plot twist
is a surprise and is therefore, in itself, a plot twist. Mamet is,
however, about the only person in the world with the elan to pull this
Having said all that, let me add that Original Sin is
not as bad as the critics said. It's not Plan 10 From Outer Space. It's
just one of those potboiler Pia Zadora movies with Jolie slumming as the
Zadora substitute. In fact, I thought the performances were amusing in an
overwrought soap opera fashion, and I think that's the effect they were
going for. Lara Croft did a good impersonation of Kathleen Turner with a
Madonnese accent, Zorro was convincing as a lovesick guy without a clue,
and Mickey Mantle did OK as the hammy actor pretending to be a detective.
I did love the fact that the evil guy (The Mick, aka
Thomas Jane) gets to run around part of the movie in a Satan costume (he's
an actor) - man, you don't get any further over the top in the symbolism
department than that!