has a new look

Go to the new



In The Cut (2003)


review by Collin Kelley



Directed by Jane Campion


Starring Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh


Rated R

Length 1 hour 58 minutes




One thing is for sure: You will NEVER think of Meg Ryan in the same way again after you've seen her portrayal of Frannie Avery in Jane Campion's new film In The Cut. Based on Susannah Moore's novel, this film is somewhere between art house and mainstream serial killer flick. Unfortunately, Campion (director of The Piano, The Portrait of A Lady, and Sweetie) misses more than she hits with this mess of a film. Nicole Kidman was originally cast to play Ryan's part, but with this script (co-written by Campion and Moore) it wouldn't have made  much difference. Kidman has already proven she can strip herself to the bone and play a variety of women on the edge. It was Meg Ryan's turn and she obviously decided it was time to stop being America's sweetheart.  In this film, she wears hardly any make up, her hair is dark and limp, and even that famous smile seems oddly dimmed. (And I haven't even gotten to the hardcore sex scenes.)

Ryan plays Frannie, a teacher (possibly high school or freshman college students.  It's never said) who is writing a book (although it's never very clear what the subject is - possibly on urban street life and slang). Her morals are fairly loose as well. She sleeps around, but it's unfulfilling and she finds herself masturbating (and this ain't faking it like When Harry Met Sally, kids) and thinking about things she sees at seedy bars. She's both a whore and repressed at the same time. She's letting one of her students pass (although he is failing) for putting her into contact with some of the urban underworld for her book. In one of the more interesting aspects of the story, Frannie's friends seem to be a mixture of pimps, strippers, and prostitutes.

Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count On Me) shows up as a dirty-talking detective named Malloy who is investigating a serial killer who likes to "disarticulate" his victims and spray their blood around the crime's fairly gruesome stuff. Of course Frannie falls for the cop, then thinks he may be the killer. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Meg's half- sister Pauline, turning in another slutty, boozy role she's become quite adept at. Kevin Bacon shows up in a weird uncredited cameo as Frannie's stalker ex-boyfriend who also seems circumspect in the killings. There's also a big connection to Virginia Woolf's "To The Lighthouse" which is used both as a visual and underlying theme to the story.

The thing that bothered me is that Frannie's character is enigmatic to the point of being almost one-dimensional. It's as if she's drowning in herself and you get snatches of her as she comes to the surface. You get nothing of her back history, save for the fact that her father ran out on her and mother and produced a series of children, including Leigh's character. Frannie's motivations throughout the film are not only bizarre, but often just implausible. She runs toward danger that even a bimbo in Friday the 13th Part 6 could see coming a mile away.

Campion uses a technique of showing how Frannie's parents met in a series of flashbacks where the two are ice skating on a frozen pond, and while this was probably in the 1960s it has an oddly 19th century feel to it. There is one scene where her father skates by and cuts hard on the ice and rather than water seeping through, it's blood. And during another flashback he skates right through his bride, cutting off her head and legs in another gross-out moment.

The other striking thing about this film is how nasty and gritty Jane Campion makes New York. While everyone is gushing over NYC after 9/11, Campion drives a nail straight through the heart of the sentiment. I haven't seen NYC portrayed in such a nasty light in years. It was brilliantly done. Anyone who has been to NYC lately or lives there will know, it can still be a very dangerous place to be. Campion permeates the film with a sense of creeping dread and you are always expecting something horrible to happen to
someone any second - especially [to] Frannie, who seems to put herself in the roughest places possible. There is also a very interesting series of shots where Frannie is reading poetry that is displayed on the subway, and each line is almost like a harbinger of what is to come next in the film.

The much talked about sex scenes between Ryan and Ruffalo are fairly graphic and were actually edited down for the American release of the film. There is full frontal nudity from both and one scene between them that verges on porn.

So what does all this add up to? It's a beautiful film to watch (even in its nastier moments), thanks to Campion's skills as an art house auteur. She seems to paying homage to Klute, the classic starring Donald Sutherland as a cop trying to stop a prostitute killer with the help of victim in waiting, Jane Fonda (who won an Oscar for the role). Like Klute, the serial killer plot in In The Cut seems to take a backseat to the character study of Frannie and Detective Malloy, but Frannie is so underwritten that is leaves Ruffalo's  Malloy to carry the film. He is divorced, concerned about his kids, heavily invested in the serial killing case, but also VERY horny. He meets his match with Frannie.

The ending of the film was significantly changed from the book, where Frannie's character meets one of the most disturbing ends ever penned for the page. In the film, she lives, but you almost wish she had not. By the final moments, Campion seems to have given up on any kind of plot and just seems to be throwing slow motion images and desperately trying to wrap it all up. And what exactly does the title of the film mean? Is it a reference to the serial killer, Frannie's deeply wounded psyche, or both? Your guess is as good as mine.



review by Collin Kelley 10/2003

Visit his website





home  [back to top]

© 2003 SubtleTea Productions   All Rights Reserved