In the Cut

| November 1, 2003

The woman sitting to my wife’s right nailed this movie as the credits began to roll…”Oh, no. You’re kidding. What a piece of shit.” I could stop there but our Editor likes us to give you a little bit more.
In The Cut is the latest film by director Jane Campion. She’s the one who did The Piano. If you liked that one, be warned, this director has directed Holy Smoke and The Portrait of a Lady since then so The Piano seems more to be an aberration of this woman’s talents. It’s the one-hit-wonder of her directorial career which should be ended after this piece of drek.
This is a murder story. Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) thinks that Frannie (Meg Ryan) might know something about a murder because a victim was found in the garden under her apartment window. OK. She tells him no, but he keeps coming back to her–not all of her neighbors. The disjointed hunt for the killer begins. It is a disjointed story in that there are several story lines we are asked to keep track of but none of the characters are compelling enough to care about. What is going to happen between Frannie and the Detective. What’s up with her sister and the married boyfriend we never see? Is Frannie a teacher who rarely goes to work or a writer who has never been published? Could the murderer be Frannie? Could the murderer be Malloy? Could it be that student of Frannie’s who’s a big black man and therefore to be feared? We’re given one of her boyfriend’s on a platter so we know it isn’t him. Kevin Bacon is uncredited as this boyfriend… He must have had a good idea as to how bad this film would be and begged off the credit list.
When we finally find out who did it, it is so anticlimactic that we just don’t care. We do not know his reason for killing those people and we certainly don’t know in retrospect why he killed Frannie’s sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh from Road to Perdition and Fast Times at Ridgemont High). We do know that Frannie is going to escape danger when he comes for her because we know she has a gun that the killer does not know she has.
Just shoot him already and let’s be done with it. The acting does not help. Ruffalo, who was great as Yates in The Last Castle, just does not pull off the idea that he is a deeper thinker than we see at skin level. Ryan (Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally) drew from somewhere for inspiration but was misled in the process.
The movie is shot with a variety of styles. We see steady cam. And steady cam that bounces all over the screen. Campion uses a lot of fading from in focus to out of focus within a shot. Instead of focusing our attention on what she is trying to tell us, it gives you a headache. There are quite a few shots of the New York skyline, a la the establishing shots in NYPD Blue, but they are mostly jumpy or grainy so as to be more annoying than establishing. A few years ago, it was said that the Blair Witch Project was shot in a way to make you nauseous. I didn’t get yhat but could use those same terms here.
The biggest stupid thing in a movie filled with stupid things comes as the epilogue. Frannie has escaped the killer. He’s dead and she has his blood all over her. Now it is time to go home. It has to take her hours because of the distance the killer took her theoretically to kill her. She is unable to flag down a car and NO ONE called the cops to say that there is a blood soaked woman walking down the highway. And with 8,000 cops in NYC, not one of them happened to see her. The groans in the theater were audible. I also want to know why a cop has the only keys to a lighthouse on a river in New York, but that is a question for the director to answer.
So what did I like about In The Cut? As my wife said, “Meg Ryan has beautiful, natural breasts.” Yes. She does. But seeing an “American Sweetheart” topless for an extended period of time is just not worth the two gut wrenching hours you would spend with this movie. I would have walked out, but I remembered the unofficial motto of FilmMonthly.com: “We wee ’em so you don’t have to.” Cut it off your Gotta’ See list. Don’t even rent it. Or watch it on cable (well maybe–Ryan is naked about 45 minutes in–time your viewing). The pictures of Ryan will be on the Internet before long.

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