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In the Cut

Starring Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nick Damici, Sharrieff Pugh
Screenplay by Jane Campion and Susanna Moore
Based on the novel by Susanna Moore
Directed by Jane Campion

IN SHORT: Hardcore, emotionally oppressive arthouse film. An impossible sit. [Rated R for strong sexuality including explicit dialogue, nudity, graphic crime scenes and language. 118 minutes]

Some actors would kill for a part they could make their own, to return to and rehash again and again. Most of 'em are on television in parts that allow them to do the same thing week after week. Then there are film actors who find their niche and stick to it. It takes so long to get a film made that rehash isn't a fair diss. The workers we truly respect are the ones good enough and confident enough to turn their backs on the easy road and stretch their acting chops. On the screen in this case is Meg Ryan, an attractive actress who could put a stamp on soft, funny, romantic characters if she wanted to. Those expecting more of the same should avoid In the Cut without a further word from us. Those looking to scream Oscar nomination are already doing so because that's what happens with hardcore image reversal roles like this one.

In this particular case Ryan portrays an emotionally-in-shreds plain Jane teacher, stalked by her ex and seemingly in the middle of a brutal set of bloody murders. In The Cut by Jane Campion, who thrilled the indie world with The Piano, had most of the critics in our preview screening sneaking out for a breather and then running like hell for the exits when the final fade to black faded to black. In The Cut is a very unpleasant film to sit through. It misses the mark on the most important aspect of making a detective slash murder mystery story: it doesn't make us care for the sucker in the metaphorical bulls eye.

Frannie Avery (Ryan) is the kind of New Yorker we know without the script giving us unneeded back story. She lives in a large tenement apartment in an iffy part of town, waiting for gentrification and thanking the powers that be for rent laws.She's a teacher who cares about and takes the extra time to work with students like Cornelius Webb (Sharrieff Pugh) who exists solely to add a little racial conflict to the murderous tension that's supposed to be present in the rest of the story. Frannie has got the extra time because she's got no love life of any kind at all. She did have interest, once. Ex John Graham (Kevin Bacon) now stalks the girl with little regard for things like locked doors or an ear for expressions like "get out of my life" (sic). Frannie's got half-sister (same father) Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to confide in.

When she stumbles upon a couple having a kind of sexual relation in the basement of a restaurant she hangs in, well, she gets an eye full and does not turn away. This will become important when the girl is chopped to pieces near Frannie's residence. Detectives come around asking basic questions, thinking the killing to be the work of a serial punk who likes his victims dismembered. Even better, and totally unexpected is the request by Detective Giovanni A. Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) to Ms. Avery that he be allowed to take her out on a date.

In New York, that's proof of the existence of God but not nearly enough to make an interesting movie. Better to put Ms. Avery in the middle of things like serial killings and see if she can figure a way not to get killed once she stops trusting everyone she knows. We've got no problems with the idea. The production had us feeling like someone had dropped an extra hundred pounds on our chest so we couldn't breathe. If the feeling had been generated by edge of your seat tension, that would have been great. It wasn't.

And of course the detective has a partner -- Richard Rodriguez (Nick Damici) -- who takes an active interest in his partner's romantic life. We're not going any farther than that.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to In the Cut, he would have paid . . .


The rating is not because the film sucks. The rating is because it's damned well impossible to sit through. Ryan's performance is dead on which is a compliment film students will well understand.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.