the Cut. Screen
Gems presents a film directed by Jane Campion. Written
by Campion and Susanna Moore, based on the novel by Moore.
Running time: 113 minutes. Rated R (for strong sexuality
including explicit dialogue, nudity, graphic crime scenes
and language). Starring
Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kevin Bacon,
Nick Damici, Sharrieff Pugh, Nancy La Scala.
based on Susanna Moore's novel of the same name, wants to
be a character study draped over a mystery/thriller. But it,
ultimately, fails at both; it fails as a character study because
it is too focused on the mystery to develop its characters,
and it fails as a mystery because the story is so dumb. It
is an admirable effort, but good intentions cannot suitably
replace quality, something In the Cut sadly lacks.
(Meg Ryan) is a mousy English teacher living in New York City.
Sexually unfulfilled, she undergoes an inner change when she
witnesses a man recieving fellatio in a bar. Soon, she is
sleeping with James Malloy (Mark Ruffalo), a police detective
investigating a serial killer. After some convincing by her
half-sister, Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Frannie decides
to continue seeing Malloy, despite her growing concerns that
he may in fact be the killer. As their relationship intensifies,
the serial killer continues his string of brutal murders,
and an unhinged former lover (Kevin Bacon) stalks Frannie.
In the Cut, I got the feeling that Frannie's transformation
isn't really important to director Jane Campion (The Piano)
and writer Susanna Moore. This seems odd to me, as I can't
believe that anyone would really about the mystery aspects
of the film. A handful of red herrings are dropped for no
reason other than to mislead, and when the case is finally
solved, the outcome is so unbelievable it is infuriating.
In order to buy the twist, we are forced to choke down a number
of strange contrivances and coincidinces. Actually, by applying
the law of economy of characters ("No useless character
is really useless"), the outcome can be predicted rather
not read In the Cut's source novel, I cannot say how
faithful the film is or how much had to be excised, but I
can say this: a good bit more should have been cut. Characters
appear and disappear almost randomly; supporting players like
Frannie's stalker and her African-American student are hardly
given anything of worth to do and should have been removed
entirely. Also, Campion obviously expects us to have a different
opinion of many of her characters than I did - Pauline is
obsessed with her doctor boyfriend, and I guess we are supposed
to think of her as, at worst, strange, but Pauline is a sick
individual, much more disturbing than Kevin Bacon's stalker,
who really comes off as more sad than scary. It is hard to
feel pathos for a character as genuinely disturbed as Pauline
the only thing of interest in In the Cut is Ryan, who,
in an attempt to shed her "good girl" image, sheds
her clothes. She bares her breasts and behind, and simulates
several different types of sex. Her performance itself is
good, although not award-worthy by any means. She shows us
Frannie's inner turmoil, but she never lets the emotions out
when she should, leaving us feeling empty and unaffected.
Mark Ruffalo is convincing as Malloy, but perhaps not in the
right way. He succeeds in being an arrogant jerk, but I never
found myself liking him in any way, which I think is the goal.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is notable only for keeping her clothes
on, something she is not known for doing. The best
performance in the film belongs to Kevin Bacon, and it's a
shame that Campion has no idea what to do with him.
last visual of In the Cut is one I really admire. A
perfectly simple shot, it has a kind of understated beauty
that made me wish the rest of the film was as good as it could
have been. In the Cut would have worked as a character
study if that was its single focus, but the attempt to mix
it up with a mystery/thriller is wrongheaded, and it leaves
the film struggling to decide what it wants to be. Ultimately,
it succeeds at nothing in particular, leaving us with an interesting
failure, but a failure nonetheless.
2003 Matt Noller