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Overall Rating
2.93

Awesome: 7.46%
Worth A Look: 25.37%
Average32.84%
Pretty Bad: 20.9%
Total Crap: 13.43%

6 reviews, 31 user ratings


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In the Cut
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by Rob Gonsalves

"An odd and very chilly experience worth having."
4 stars

I refuse to give up on Jane Campion. In terms of setting a visual mood, she remains one of the top-notch directors out there, even if her choices in material have been funky for about a decade now. Exhibit A would be "In the Cut," roundly described as terrible -- an erotic thriller without eroticism or thrills -- a charge I find difficult to dispute, except that I don't really think an erotic thriller is what Campion had in mind.

Working from the dry-ice 1995 novel by Susanna Moore (who co-scripted with the director), Campion approaches the basic narrative thread -- woman gets in touch with her nasty side by carrying on a torrid affair with a man who might be a murderer -- as a jittery, stylistically dodgy meditation on desire and self-destruction. Woe to anyone who rents In the Cut hoping for something suspenseful or arousing.

A look at Moore's novel -- which can probably be read in about the time it takes to watch the film -- reveals a not very different game plan. The unnamed narrator, a professor of English, obsesses about words and slang, and couches her experiences in spare, standoffish prose that, after a while, clues you in on how much she's feeling but not expressing. Campion nails the tone of the book exactly once, when the movie's protagonist, here named Frannie Avery (Meg Ryan), discovers a body part in a sink; the sense of floating detachment rolling slowly into horror is what separates an artist from a garden-variety purveyor of cheap shocks.

Meg Ryan isn't really in this movie -- at least not the Meg Ryan we've come to be familiar (and bored) with, the cuddly Meg of romantic comedies, although she has been bedraggled and not-nice in such films as When a Man Loves a Woman and Hurlyburly. Campion and cinematographer Dion Beebe shoot Ryan unflatteringly whenever possible, bringing out the hollows under her eyes and emphasizing that weird glazed look she gets when she's trying to convey deep thought. Like all the Campion actresses before her -- Holly Hunter, Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman -- Ryan gives an almost entirely physical performance; Campion likes her actresses consciously inexpressive, so that she can work with their bodies and the way shadows play across their faces.

Similarly, Mark Ruffalo fills the Harvey Keitel role of the powerful and possibly dangerous man who leads the heroine further into herself than she would otherwise have gone. As the crude detective Malloy, who prides himself on "being whatever you want me to be" in bed, Ruffalo strikes an effective balance of machismo and tenderness. Like other sexual knights in Campion's work, Malloy knows exactly what Frannie needs, and Frannie gratefully plays right along with him. The fact that he might be the killer who's been going around "disarticulating" local women only adds to Frannie's playing-with-fire pleasure. Campion works hard to steam up their encounters, but the scenes have a queasy, doom-laden undercurrent that cuts off arousal; we are distanced and watching two people in the throes of their own private bad obsessions.

The actual plot motor is sort of goofy on the face of it, as it was in Moore's novel; but, of course, neither Moore nor Campion is interested in the "story" so much as the tangled emotions that arise from it. Frannie has seen (explicitly, in the unrated version of the film) a man in shadows getting orally pleasured by a woman who later turns up "disarticulated"; the man has a tattoo on his wrist, and so does Malloy. We're given other red herrings, including Frannie's student Cornelius (Sharrieff Pugh), a large black guy obsessed with John Wayne Gacy, and Frannie's neurotic ex-lover John (an uncredited Kevin Bacon), who putters around with his ugly little dog and stalks her (and when he gets her attention, all he does is whine about how he's thinking about going on antidepressants). We also get, for no apparent reason, some flashbacks/nightmares about how Frannie's dad proposed to her mom while ice-skating (complete with the Freudian visual of Dad's ice-skates cleaving off Mom's feet); and Frannie has been given a half-sister, Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who serves little function other than bemoaning the lack of decent men while still sleeping with bastards. Meg and Jennifer: the masochism twins.

In the Cut was never going to be a mainstream hit (and decidedly wasn't), so I have to wonder why Campion and/or Moore altered the ending of the book, which panned out pretty much the same as the movie does, only without the redemptive gunshot and final reunion. (The book ends with the narrator hoping she bleeds to death before her killer returns to disarticulate her.) The movie's finale makes it seem like just another conventional Skinemax thriller (though Campion, true to her calling as a stubborn artist, mutes the redemptive act of violence). I came away from In the Cut feeling the same way I did after all of Campion's other films: not quite sure what I had seen or whether I "liked" it, but certain that I'd seen something quite out of the ordinary. Should a movie be penalized for failing to be something it never tried or aspired to be? Perhaps the marketing is to blame, or the hype surrounding Meg Ryan's nudity.

Once again, Campion has given us a work that is its own willful beast, unshackled by genre (except for the sell-out ending). I can't really argue with those who didn't like it. I can't say I "liked" it either. But I'm still not giving up on Campion.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8262&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/25/06 05:12:14
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User Comments

10/12/14 PAUL SHORTT SPECIOUS, SLOW AND SORDID 1 stars
5/01/09 Johnboy A sad ageing Ryan trying to restart a dead career in a 'arty(?)' porno flick - RETIRE MEG!! 1 stars
4/29/09 Marc another unique disturbing and beautiful film from Jane campion 4 stars
6/20/06 Nicole Bleck! 2 stars
4/28/06 Angel Unedited version had a close up of a real Blow Job and Ruffalo's frontal shots! 4 stars
9/07/05 Sully decent....it tuned my girl on, so we watch it nightly now.... 3 stars
8/14/05 Charlene Javier Simple awful! 2 stars
8/14/05 Dixie Theriault poor adaptation of the novel 3 stars
8/10/05 marie naylor Starts out suspensful,then dies a slow laborious death;apparently along with Ms. Ryan's "co 2 stars
8/05/05 Phil M. Aficionado Weird and choppy and outlandish, despite pretty good acting 2 stars
12/26/04 mjoc This was unwatchable! Pure torture! 1 stars
12/09/04 Landshark Never knew Campion had a sense of humor---the ex-bf (Bacon) & the bouncer (Patrice O'Neal) 4 stars
10/23/04 Sarah really awful, bad acting, bad editing, bad cinematography, and plot - what plot? 1 stars
7/20/04 Jack Viewer Beautiful Meg and very horrible movie. The director sucks! 1 stars
6/24/04 Edgar Brief glimpse of Meg Ryan's turd-ticklers not worth the two hours of unentertaining horror. 2 stars
3/19/04 Teresa Williams Just plain weird and terribly disappointing. 1 stars
3/02/04 Jack Sommersby Fails as a thriller but fairly succeeds as a character study. 3 stars
3/02/04 Just Don't Bore Me Lame, slow, plot devoid prattle. Avoid!!! 1 stars
2/15/04 Charles Tatum They remade "Millennium" with Ryan instead of Lance Henriksen 3 stars
1/21/04 Mandy Seever PC era makes mystery impossible. Rules of PC always give it away. 2 stars
12/30/03 Rosie R See something else. Poor storyline, unerotic sex scenes, sad and lonely people. No thrills. 1 stars
12/27/03 John Bale Campion and Ryan go feral in this dark gritty thriller 4 stars
12/02/03 Chris A sensational film , unfairly hated on. Meg Ryan is amazing. 5 stars
11/25/03 Edgar Brief glimpse of Meg Ryan's turd-ticklers not worth the two hours of unentertaining horror. 2 stars
11/21/03 horndog meg ryan getting reamed. nuff said 5 stars
11/20/03 Ranveer Kunal meg is awesome 5 stars
11/20/03 Roy R. Pryor Another "men are scum" movie with "surprise" twist one could see from lightyears away. 2 stars
11/09/03 prasad not seen yet 5 stars
10/30/03 neguine sanani get ready to experience a love story that is honest and ever so intimate 5 stars
10/27/03 jdogg shallow. gratuitous. soulless. smarmy. and that's just meg ryan. 1 stars
10/27/03 vagile Despite a shallow plot, one's attention never waivers. Dark Perverse. Bravura performances. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 10-Feb-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  13-Nov-2003


Directed by
  Jane Campion

Written by
  Jane Campion

Cast
  Meg Ryan
  Mark Ruffalo
  Kevin Bacon
  Jennifer Jason Leigh
  Nick Damici
  Sharrieff Pugh



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