Situations spiral out of control and the classes clash in the juicy lesbian drama, The Origin of Evil (L’origine du mal). Money, murder, and the design choices of the nouveau riche fill the screen in this darkly comic-thriller.
Stéphane (a wonderful performance by Call My Agent’s Laure Calamy) works in a factory, packaging anchovies all day. Her girlfriend is in prison and her landlady is evicting her to make way for her own daughter, but when she finally discovers the identity of her own biological father she suddenly has the chance to move up in the world. It turns out she is the daughter of a local property tycoon, Serge Dumontet (Jacques Weber). But the Dumontet family is by no means perfect. Mo’ money, mo’ problems as they say. But how far will she go to get her hands on their money?
Cinema is replete with ‘screw the rich’ narratives at the moment from the likes of Triangle of Sadness, Glass Onion, and The Menu, but director Sébastien Marnier balances the story out by spending equal amounts of time with Stéphane’s troubled reality as it does with the grandeur of the Dumontet estate. The viewer is left wondering if Stéphane is Serge’s salvation from his Succession-like family dramas, or if she’s a female version of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley, conning her way into their lives. That tension keeps you gripped until Marnier bares the truth with delicious glee.
The Origin of Evil skirts the edge of self-parody at times, playing up to its palatial premise with abandon, but the coolness of Romain Carcanade’s cinematography keeps things level. Serge’s current wife Louise (Dominique Blanc) is a joy to watch, balancing the ludicrous eccentricities of the rich with some heart, and Serge’s calculating daughter George (Doria Tiller) holds her cards close to her chest while looking for advantages. Something wicked this way comes, but you’re never quite sure of which direction it’s going to come from.
Sébastien Marnier has served up a fabulous piece of fur lined fun that is utterly entertaining. Were it not for its avaricious abandon it could succumb to stale “scheming lesbian” tropes, but gorgeous details and carefully balanced camp deliveries make The Origin of Evil a crowd-pleasing romp.
By Chad Armstrong