Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Origin of Evil

The Dumontets are rich and French, so it is no wonder they are litigious, even among themselves. Yet, they still live together. The prodigal daughter might even move in with them in. Lucky her. They are uncomfortable to be around, but there is still the rich part. Social climbing gets dangerous in Sebastien Marnier’s The Origin of Evil, which opens Friday in New York.

Stephane Marson is not exactly Serge Dumontet’s long-lost daughter, since he never bothered to look for her. However, once she suddenly presents herself, he realizes she might just be her father’s daughter (illegitimate or not). Naturally, she wants to keep her prison-inmate girlfriend a secret from her new “family.” However, the new Dumontet daughter might have even darker secrets, but maybe that is why old Serge takes a perverse liking to her.

Of course, it does not hurt that she annoys Serge’s proper daughter, George Dumontet (both daughters have men’s names, because that was a Serge thing). George is one last appeal away from wresting control of the family empire away from the old man. In the courtroom, his shopaholic wife Louise sides with George, but she largely maintains neutrality within their seaside villa, despite her tart tongue. She is even somewhat receptive to Serge’s surprise daughter. Obviously, with serious money at stake, things are going to get ugly.

will remind some viewers of vintage 1960s and 1970s Claude Chabrol—and not just because its French. This is a deliberately paced thriller that takes its time introducing its characters and their circumstances. It isn’t until about halfway through that Marnier and co-screenwriter Fanny Burdino unveil their first big twist, which definitely changes everything.

In fact,
Origin is a deliciously clever, in ways that earn comparison to films that would be spoilery to mention. One thing is safe to say: the Dumontet family sure is something.

Laure Calamy is terrific as the new daughter. She has some surprises in store, which she pulls off brilliantly. As old man Serge, Jacques Weber is hulking mass of father issues. Initially, he gives off “Toni Erdmann” vibes, but grows steadily darker as the audience gets to know him. Likewise, Dominique Blanc makes the unfiltered Louise funnier and more identifiable with each scenery-chewing appearance.

Origin of Evil
shows France can still whip up a good thriller. It is a slow-burner, but the burn really blisters. Highly recommended for fans of very adult noirs, The Origin of Evil opens Friday (9/22) in New York at the IFC Center.