In the Cut

on October 22, 2003 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
"Single White Female" goes "Cruising" in Jane Campion's derivative, idiotic thriller that is devoid of any suspense, logic or intelligence. A dowdy-looking Meg Ryan plays Frannie Avery, an English teacher who, while out one night in a neighborhood bar, witnesses a sex act between a man and a woman in the dark bowels of the establishment. Soon after, she finds out that the female half of the duo has been savagely murdered--possibly, she suspects, by the hunky cop (Mark Ruffalo) who's investigating the homicide. Of course, instead of running the other way as most smart women would, Frannie immediately begins a torrid affair with the officer, since she's secretly fascinated by the dark, dangerous aura he radiates.

Though Campion ("The Piano") has always valued style over content, from "The Portrait of a Lady" to "Holy Smoke," she's now dispensed with the latter entirely. "In the Cut's" protagonists are completely swallowed up by the film's atmosphere, which doesn't permit any of the cast, including Jennifer Jason Leigh as Frannie's blowsy half-sister, to breathe or make any sense of out their sparsely written characters. Instead, the audience is treated to all manner of odd angles, hard-boiled dialogue and symbolic imagery, which do nothing to disguise the paucity of the storytelling or the film's lack of originality. The plot 'twists' can be spotted a mile away. Even the film's much-discussed explicit sex scenes are just so much hype (though that may have much to do with the cuts Campion had to make for the film to get an R rating in the U.S.). As for Ryan's supposed courage in shedding her Doris Day-like perky film image, she's been much more authentic in better "bad-girl" roles in "Addicted to Love" and "Promised Land." "In the Cut" may seem like some sort of transgressive feminist statement but it's actually the same old thing that Hollywood has done before. Starring Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Directed by Jane Campion. Written by Jane Campion and Susanna Moore. Produced by Laurie Parker and Nicole Kidman. A Screen Gems release. Drama. Rated R for strong sexuality including explicit dialogue, nudity, graphic crime scenes and language. Running time: 113 min

Tags: Meg Ryan, manner, hard-boiled, symbolic, imagery, disguise, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jane Campion, Nicole Kidman, drama

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