IN THE CUT is not just a bad film, it is a laughably bad film. This would-be erotic thriller wants to discomfit us by delving into the psychological underpinnings of sex and violence and yet succeeds only in making us feel sorry for the people who tried so hard and came up with bupkis.
One can point many fingers, plot, presentation, premise, but the principle failing is our leading lady, Meg Ryan. One can admire her for taking a risk, a necessary one given that her career until now has been based on a particular brand of perky cutesiness that works for thespians in their teens, twenties, and maybe even early thirties if irony is used, but becomes cloying and irksome after that. Recognizing an expiration date on her old persona, she has foresworn obvious makeup, good lighting, and a decent hairdo, to take on the moody and slightly kinky character of Frannie Avery, a college professor who teaches English and attracts obsessive boyfriends. Its that latter quality that might have made her an interesting character when she hooks up with Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) when he comes calling in the course of investigating a particularly grisly murder. The victims head, it seems, was tossed into Frannies back garden.
Though we are supposed to believe that there is an animal attraction going on, there is no spark generated between the actors or the characters as they trade barbs and non sequitors. Without that, nothing else works. Like Frannie calling Malloy after being mugged while walking home alone after their supremely awful first date. Naturally they have sex, because even though he is overtly obnoxious and she is overtly put off by it, sex is what the film is about. But even there the film fails. Their sex scenes, both solo and duo, sprinkled liberally throughout, and rife with full and prolonged nudity, have an explicit blandness to them that drains even a hint of prurient interest out of them.
Perhaps if Ruffalo were less somnambulant. Perhaps if Ryan werent being so self-consciously not cute. Perhaps if Jennifer Jason Leigh werent playing her nympho stalkerette half-sister, Pauline, and showing her up in every scene that they have together. Whenever Leigh appears, the casting error is writ large on the silver screen. Whereas Ryan seems to be plotting every frown, every lowered brown, Leigh dominates with her innate darkness and fearless edge. She seems to be barely clinging to normalcy with the indifference of a long-standing habit, that she is preparing to embrace madness with nary a sigh of regret or even a conscious thought.
The script based on Susanna Moores novel of the same name throws us several more dismembered corpses and a smorgasbord of suspects. Is it the hyperactive dog-toting, medical student ex-boyfriend (Kevin Bacon in deliciously malicious mode) who is as oblivious as he is nuts? Is it the underwritten student (Sharrieff Pugh)? Or is it Malloy himself? Honestly, we just dont care. And thats when things turn stupid, with characters doing things that make no sense all leading up to a finale that had the preview audience I saw this with building from chortle to chuckle to guffaw.
Director Jane Campion (THE PIANO) has dressed up the proceedings with some nice indie art house chic full of shadowy ambiance, stylized flashbacks, and a screen that floats in and out of focus like a fever dream, but all the pretty packaging in the known universe cant save IN THE CUT from being a monumental misfire of a flick.