"Seemingly intended for both feminists and soft-core aficionados"
There are only three categories of people that will probably bother with the latest from The Piano director Jane Campion: Those who enjoy serial killer flicks, those who appreciate Campionís thoughtful reflections on the fairer gender and lonely middle-aged men who really want to see Meg Ryan get naked.
All but the latter will come away disappointed.Ryan attempts to break free from her chick flick typecasting as a Manhattan writing teacher whose idealized visions of romantic love, fostered by the fantasy of the snow-covered courtship of her parents, are at odds with her darker carnal preferences.
The widening gulf between Ryanís two selves has relegated her to somewhat of an empty shell, repressing her desires while retreating into an existence of passivity.
And what better way to reawaken dormant yearnings than a severed head in your garden?
The decapitation is the work a serial killer preying upon lonely single women, or at least thatís the operating theory of foul mouthed, bad mustached police detective Mark Ruffalo, who begins a series of torrid trysts with Ryan that continue even after she begins to suspect he may very well be the killer.
While the skin-heavy, sweat dripping mattress gymnastics donít exactly live up to the hype, Ryanís performance does.
Though she has found her greatest success playing Americaís Cutie in fluffy romantic comedies, Ryan possesses a sadness and remoteness that someone with the pre-fabricated personality of a Julia Roberts will never be capable of.
Ryanís performance (in a role originally intended for Nicole Kidman, who is still credited as producer) is an exercise in subtlety, her character unfolding through the uneasiness of her body language.
But the actress' surprising effectiveness canít overcome In the Cutís complete void of likeable characters or Campionís obvious disdain for the genre her own movie inhabits.
The director shows complete disinterest in exploiting the genreís strengths by crafting a film bereft of tension, yet she has no problem wallowing in the genreís trappings in the form of numerous red herrings and plot cliches (i.e. if a supposedly helpless female character learns to shoot a firearm, you can bet your sweat ass the killer will be eating a lead sandwich in the conclusion).
If In the Cut had been directed by a pseudo-arty purveyor of sleaze like Adrian Lyne it could easily dismissed as yet another pointless erotic thriller, but the fact that this misfire comes from Campion demands further scrutiny.Upon taking that closer look the film is full of interesting ideas on the futility of idealized romance and the misogynist hypocrisy of female sexual mores, but that doesnít change the fact that it an unpleasant chore to sit through.