"I Origins" Movie Review: 2 Stars
by Betsy Sharkey
In Mike Cahill movies, bad things happen to good people, and other good people are guilt-ridden as a result. But the human connections and the spare sci-fi logic that characterized "Another Earth," Cahill's ethereal romantic dramatic debut, are muddied in "I Origins."
It is, in fact, logic that weighs this film down. While "Another Earth" floated the idea of a parallel universe and a second chance at life and love within its tragedy, "I Origins" uses its misfortune to contemplate evolution and spirituality against a shaky romantic tableau.
Michael Pitt stars as Dr. Ian Gray, a hipster molecular biologist studying the eye, specifically the iris, as individualistic as a fingerprint. When he's not in the lab, he's out snapping photos of eyes, which provide some of the film's more compelling visuals. The iris close-up is a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors. It's metaphorically where the film draws its name.
The conflict turns on Gray's research. He seems as intent on proving to others as reassuring himself that evolution is responsible for the world as we know it. What happens when Gray's certainty is shaken becomes grist for the spiritual mill Cahill is grinding.
On the romantic front, Gray is torn between two women, a flighty model named Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and a serious researcher, Karen, played by Brit Marling, who starred in and co-wrote "Another Earth" with the filmmaker.
If those descriptions don't make it clear, the women are not only polar opposites, they fit all the usual female cliches. Marling's scientist even wears black horned-rimmed glasses, so she must be serious. Sofi is enchanting, and Berges-Frisbey is lovely in the role. The bohemian life Sofi favors at first excites the more reserved scientist, then soon exhausts him.
A terrible thing happens to change the course of their relationship. It's gruesome, but not shocking in the way the filmmaker intends, which is to say, not shocking at all.
From that point, "I Origins" and its guilt lurches forward in increasingly desperate ways.
The story picks up seven years later. Gray is married to Karen, and they have a toddler who may have autism. The tests for their son eventually circle back to Gray's work and Sofi's memory in eerie ways. It also sparks another, and very different, round of research for the scientist. The answer lies in the startling blue eyes of a New Delhi street urchin named Salomina (Kashish). Do Salomina's eyes speak of evolution, reincarnation, a random anomaly? By this point you may not care.
On the face of it, tackling the warring sides of science and the spirit seemed a good fit for the writer-director, who continues to be drawn to existential themes. There are occasional flashes of the exceptional, but the film's dodgy story can't sustain them.
The camera work and polish of the film, however, shows that given a little bigger budget, Cahill can put beautiful images on screen. Working with cinematographer Markus Forderer, production designer Tania Bijlani and costume designer Megan Gray, Cahill gives "I Origins" a distinctive retro-hip look.
Meanwhile, Marling continues to get better. After the Sundance coming-out party for "Another Earth" in 2011, the actress had another breakthrough performance as the overly smart executive questioning her hedge-fund father played by Richard Gere in "Arbitrage" (2012). Marling does smart and sophisticated extremely well, she's just underemployed here.
Pitt brings a kind of bruised moodiness to Gray that makes his particular existential crises provocative. That sensibility shades much of the actor's work, like the sexy American student sucked into a Paris intrigue in Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Dreamers." The "Boardwalk Empire" folks understood exactly what to do with that ethos. Pitt was gripping as a driven, rising young gangster in the acclaimed HBO series until Steve Buscemi's Nucky brought him down in Season 2.
In this case, the material fails the actor. Pitt's conflicted scientist should have been far more conflicted, and the dialogue should definitely have been better. Instead the actor is left to make lines like "but I'm a doctor" resonate with either meaning or outrage depending on the moment, when the moment called for so much more.
MPAA rating: R (for some sexuality/nudity and language)
Running time: 1:47.
"I Origins" Movie Trailer
In "I Origins," a molecular biologist and his lab partner uncover startling evidence that could fundamentally change society as we know it and cause them to question their once-certain beliefs in science and spirituality
- 'Magic in the Moonlight' Movie Review
- 'A Most Wanted Man' Movie Review
- 'Lucy' Movie Review
- 'Under the Electric Sky' Movie Review
- 'I Origins' Movie Review
- 'Mood Indigo' Movie Review
- 'Boyhood' Movie Review
- 'Sex Tape' Movie Review
- 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Movie Review
- 'Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago' Movie Review
- 'Tammy' Movie Review
- 'Deliver Us From Evil' Movie Review
- 'Earth to Echo' Movie Review
- 'Begin Again' Movie Review
- 'Life Itself' Movie Review
- 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' Movie Review
- 'They Came Together' Movie Review
- 'Third Person' Movie Review
- 'Ivory Tower' Movie Review
- 'Jersey Boys' Movie Review
- 'The Rover' Movie Review
- 'Think Like a Man Too' Movie Review
- 'A Coffee in Berlin' Movie Review
- 'Brave Miss World' Movie Review
- '22 Jump Street' Movie Review
- 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' Movie Review
- 'Edge of Tomorrow' Movie Review
- 'The Fault in Our Stars' Movie Review
- 'Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas' Movie Review
- 'Maleficent' Movie Review
- 'Cold in July' Movie Review
- 'A Million Ways To Die in The West' Movie Review
- 'Chinese Puzzle' Movie Review
- Jayson Blair and All The Lies Not Fit to Print
- 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' Movie Review
- 'Blended' Movie Review
- 'The Immigrant' Movie Review
- 'Ida' Movie Review
- 'The Cold Lands' Movie Review
- 'Godzilla' Movie Review
- 'Palo Alto' Movie Review
- 'Million Dollar Arm' Movie Review
- 'Chef' Movie Review
- 'God's Pocket' Movie Review
- 'For No Good Reason' Movie Review
- 'Neighbors' Movie Review
- Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'
- Richard Roeper Reviews 'Lucy'
- Top 10 Movie Torture Scenes
- Crazy Facts About Horror Movies
- Robert Downey Jr. Hints at 'Iron Man 4' Return
- 9 Things You Need to Know About 'The Maze Runner'
- Top 10 Quirky Movie Pick-Up Lines
- Top 10 Serious Movie Pick-Up Lines
- The Power of Faith Based Films
- Top 10 Superhero Alter Egos
- Top 10 Kevin Bacon Performances
- Can You Believe These 10 Movies Turn 20 This Year?
- Richard Roeper Reviews 'I Origins'
- Top 10 Years in Film History
- 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' First Look and Avengers Tower Details
- Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman in 'I Origins' Feature Clip
- Top 10 Harry Potter Characters
- Top 10 Greatest Female Movie Villains of All Time
- 12 Most Patriotic Movie Moments
- 7 Most Illogical Movie Endings
- Top 10 Fictional Movie Towns
- Top 10 Vietnam War Movies
- Remembering 'Forrest Gump' 20 Years Later
- Top 10 Movie Robots of All Time
- Top 10 Pixar Villains
- Top 10 Stan Lee Movie Cameos
- Top 10 Damsels in Distress in Movies
- Top 10 Cult Classics: Horror Movies
- Top 10 Alfred Hitchcock Movies
- Top 10 Major Plot Holes in Movies
- Top 10 Dramatic Movie Deaths
- Top 10 Movie Production Nightmares
- Top 10 Old Wise Men in Movies
- Top 10 School Dances in Movies
- Top 10 Movie Shower Scenes
- The Movies You'll Definitely Want To See This Summer
- Top 10 Memorable Movie Insults
- Top 10 Funniest Movie Insults
- Top 10 Obscene Movie Insults (Explicit)
- Top 10 Hated Movie Actors
Article: Copyright © 2014, Tribune Content Agency
'I Origins' Movie Review & Movie Trailer