Director Michael Cristofer seems obsessed with Angelina Jolie’s lips. In his 2001 remake of Francois Truffaut’s film Mississippi Mermaid, Original Sin, he gifts the Oscar-winning superstar’s smackers with long, lingering close-ups. Her pillow-like mouth is a focal point and a visual theme that Cristofer seems to return to again and again, as if his audiences will be mesmerized enough by her lips that they may forget just how terrible the film really is. Unfortunately, the tactic doesn’t work and the film is an excruciating viewing experience.
With names like Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas, one would think that an erotic thriller like Original Sin would live up to its billing. And both stars look great. Unfortunately they are working with a terrible script which stretches their rather limited talents. Banderas especially struggles in his role as Luis Durand, a fabulously rich businessman in 1800s Cuba. His American wife, Julia (Jolie) was supposed to be a homely plain woman who would cook his meals and help him nurse his wounds after the death of his wife. But when she arrives in Cuba, Luis discovers that his wife is a major super babe. She explains that she sent a picture of the plain Jane because she wanted to appreciated for more than just her beautiful face. Luis has his own confessing to make: he’s not the struggling working man, but an owner of a coffee company. So both characters seem to land on respective jackpots.
Except not everything is as it seems. Julia’s sister sends urgent notes worrying about her disappearance. And then a detective, Walter Downs (Thomas Jane, the only bright spot in this mess), suddenly appears – hired by Julia’s worried sis. And then Cristofer’s plot plunges into some dizzying twists as Luis discovers he’s smack in the middle of intrigue and a whole bunch of double-crossing. To recount more of the story may give away some key plot points, which aren’t all that interesting or surprising to begin with.
Cristofer is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning auteur, but none of that award-worthy talent finds itself in this script or the film. He also is hampered by a pair of performers who have zero chemistry. Jolie, a proven talent when she’s given a good script and a strong director, is left adrift with nothing much to do but pose and thrust her ample cleavage. Although she manages to pull off her top multiple times, she cannot seem to pull off the tricky character she’s supposed to play. Banderas is worse – he doesn’t have any range and is called upon to either shout or pout – any of the inspiration that he shows in Pedro Almodovar’s films is completely absent here.
Given the potential with the compelling source material, it’s a head scratcher that Original Sin comes off as such a yawner. The script fails to make the characters interesting or sympathetic – instead of feeling bad for Luis, viewers will be frustrated at his stupidity. And the flourishes meant to give heat and sizzle to the script, fall flat. The only plus for the film is the handsome production values and sumptuous costumes, but these pluses don’t overcome the tired script or the amateurish performances. After watching Original Sin, viewers will feel as if they’ve wasted two hours.