In The Cut will already go down in film history as the film where Meg Ryan sheds both her girl next door image and most of her clothes. There is a lot more here however that merits attention.
Meg Ryan plays Frannie, a repressed English professor who encounters a homicide detective after a woman is found dead near her apartment. There is a strange attraction between the two, which slowly grows, but it is based around a bizarre conceit. Frannie is turned on by the danger surrounding him and even more disturbingly, by the fact he may be the killer…
While there are elements of the plot which sound like every serial killer thriller released in the past 20 years, In The Cut stands out for its wilful perversion of what we expect to see. Jane Campion’s use of imagery is dreamy and beautiful but also contains a foreboding sense of menace. The leading character often does stupid things, like walking down dark alleys yet there’s an odd reasoning behind it.
Believe the hype about Meg Ryan’s performance. Her blond cute persona is nowhere to be seen as she transforms into a not always likeable, troubled character. The scene where she confronts her lover in the police station is awesome. Mark Ruffalo also matches Ryan’s brilliance with his cocky, dangerous detective, at odds with every awkward role he’s done before.
Jennifer Jason Leigh offers strong support as Frannie’s sister, although Kevin Bacon is rather unnecessary as her ex-boyfriend/stalker. The explicit sex and graphic violence are sometimes shocking but concur with the movie’s themes. Frannie’s sexual awakening comes with a violent price and Jane Campion’s assured and brave direction accompanies this.
The mechanics of the plot sometimes veer to the predictable, especially towards the contrived lighthouse scene, but there’s still enough visually to keep us hooked. The themes of marriage and fear of commitment are cleverly interwoven, with Frannie’s character explored through more than just her dialogue, something of a rarity in a serial killer movie. The killer may be obvious but by the end it doesn’t matter, it’s the journey Frannie takes that is important.
As long as you can ignore the sometimes conventional plot, In The Cut has plenty to recommend. Meg Ryan’s raw, courageous acting is worthy of an Oscar and Ruffalo is also a revelation. It also possesses possibly the most striking visuals of the year. Believe me, you’ve never seen a thriller done like this before…