out of Five
Running time: 120
Jane Campion directs a Channel 5-type erotic thriller – the ending is disappointing but the direction and the performances (especially Ryan) are superb.
If you’ve ever wondered what a sub-Basic Instinct Channel 5-type erotic thriller would look like with decent actors and a “serious” director attached, then wonder no longer, because Jane ‘The Piano’ Campion has answered that question with In The Cut, adapted from the book by Susanna Moore.
Meg Ryan plays Frannie Avery, a withdrawn Manhattan English teacher. While giving a private lesson in a bar, she nips to the bathroom and witnesses two shadowy figures engaging in some fairly graphic sexual activity…and stays to watch.
When the female half of the shadowy couple is later brutally murdered, Frannie meets and falls for Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) and the two begin an intense sexual relationship. However, the bodies keep piling up and each of the victims has a connection to Frannie – could the killer be Obvious Stalker Type Kevin Bacon? Or her impassioned student Cornelius (Sharieff Pugh)? Or maybe even Malloy himself?
The film is beautifully shot, with Campion frequently blurring the edges of the frame in order to direct your gaze. She also makes great use of deep, rich colours – there’s a fabulous shot early on when Frannie is waiting to get on the subway and she’s dwarfed by a huge wreath of red roses bearing the legend ‘Mom’. In fact, symbolism-spotters are probably in for something of a treat…
The performances are astonishing – Ruffalo, who matches Ryan in the
full-frontal nudity stakes, confirms his reputation as an up-and-coming
actor in the Brando mould and there’s great support from both Jennifer Jason Leigh (as Frannie’s step-sister and best friend) and Kevin Bacon (thanked in the credits as “lovely, lovely Kevin Bacon”), one of few actors whose career happily encompasses both lead roles and top-drawer character work.
However, Meg Ryan (in a role originally intended for exec producer Nicole Kidman) is nothing short of a revelation, delivering a raw, powerful, naked (both physically and emotionally) performance that’s light years away from her ditzy romcom persona and could quite easily net her an Oscar nomination.
The film itself is riveting when it confines itself to being a study of
Frannie and her fractured relationships. However, eventually the plot takes hold and the final act is a little disappointing, not to say ludicrous. That said, it’s still an enjoyable, impressively directed film that’s worth seeing for Ryan’s performance alone. Recommended.