In the Cut (*)

Posted on November 8th, 2003 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Oh, man, did this movie suck. Directed and co-written by Jane Campion, it stars Meg Ryan in her birthday suit for the first time on film. We went hoping to see an erotic thriller, and we’re still hoping. Yes, Ms. Ryan does bare it all, but it was completely (to me) un-erotic…in fact, it was de-rotic. And there’s nothing thrilling or mysterious, other than the mystery of how long they can drag out the lame story, or the mystery of how many men that Meg Ryan’s character thinks is a psychotic killer will she be aroused by and sleep with over and over and over and over again. The only “ic” that this movie is is idiotic, and it is that in spades. Here are some examples:

Example #1: At the beginning of the movie Frannie (Meg Ryan’s character), a high school English teacher, meets one of her students at a bar to discuss a paper he’s writing (a bar?). She heads down the dark, dingy back stairs of the seedy bar towards the restroom, and sees a man with a very unique and distinguishing tattoo being…serviced (ahem)…by a young lady with very unique and distinguishing blue fingernails. Later, when the decapitated head of the murder victim, who just happens to be the same young lady with the blue fingernails, is found beneath Frannie’s bedroom window in her garden, the cop who shows up has the same distinguishing tattoo as the guy from the bar. Frannie’s reaction to this? Sleep with him.

Example #2: When Frannie is unsure of her relationship with the cop, she seeks out the advice of her sister. Her sister recommends that she continue sleeping with the cop, which Frannie does. Frannie’s sister’s advice is trustworthy to Frannie, even though in her own personal life the sister is stalking some poor doctor, stealing the doctor’s wife’s clothes from the dry cleaner, and her biggest worry is what to wear to court when they slap her with a restraining order. Oh, and she lives in an apartment directly above a strip club, and appears to be sort of a den-mother to the dancers, running a sort of empowered-naked-women’s day care center, or something like that, where the strippers leave their babies while they go out front and grind for the customers. Heartwarming.

Example #3: The student from the bar, an obviously troubled young man who is writing a paper (in blood) defending notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy as a misunderstood nice guy who loved his victims, also flirts with Frannie in that street-tough fashion of youth. Later in the story, after Frannie has discovered the body of her violently murdered sister and sat on the floor with her sister’s disembodied head in a plastic shopping bag in her lap until the police show up and pry it from her hands, Frannie promptly goes home, finds her young student waiting for her, and takes him upstairs and proceeds to make out with him. That’s a perfectly normal reaction, wouldn’t you say?

Example #4: At the beginning of the film Frannie relates to her sister the story of how their father proposed to her mother (they’re half-sisters – same father), and it’s a beautiful, romantic, sepia-toned flashback to her father and mother silently skating on a glorious winter’s day, and her father getting down on one knee on the frozen lake to propose. As the film progresses we learn more of this story through intermittent flashbacks, and find out that the father actually came to the lake with a different girl, his fiancé, no less, who is taken aback by how much attention he is paying to Frannie’s future mom. So the fiancé takes off the engagement ring and flings it at him, and he proceeds to pick it up, skate over to Frannie’s mom, and propose to her with the same ring. Of course, in that true, hackneyed cinematic tradition, he ends up slicing her legs off with his razor-sharp skates and spreading blood all over the frozen lake. Quite Kapra-esque.

Example #5: Kevin Bacon plays a former romantic interest of Frannie’s, who just happens to be instantly recognizable as a red herring, because he’s just too loony and stalker-like to actually be the killer….or is he?? Who cares.

The list goes on and on (and on and on). When we got home I double-checked the running time, which is just under two hours. It felt like a lot more. The absolute worst part of the film, however, is the grand finale, where the killer is finally revealed.


So, as we begin wrapping up this circus we find that Frannie is almost positive that the detective is the killer, so she invites him up to her apartment, for some inexplicable reason puts on a sexy, red, night-out-on-the-town dress, provocatively handcuffs him to an exposed pipe with his own handcuffs, has her way with him, then stumbles off blindly into the night (in her provocative red dress), where she runs into the detective’s partner, who thus far has been nothing but a bit character. He takes Frannie to a huge red lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge. The red lighthouse both physically and metaphorically resembles a bloody penis, so given Frannie’s romantic choices thus far I just assumed that she’d start humping it. At this point it is clear to everyone, including the audience and Frannie, that the partner is the killer.

So Frannie does the smart thing and follows on foot as he unlocks the gate and lets her in to the lighthouse grounds, where she seems to be inexplicably trapped by a 7 foot high, easily climbable wrought iron fence, even though she knows (because he tells her) that he’s going to kill her. But first he puts on a little easy-listening music, has a drink, and asks Frannie to marry him, at which point she does the first smart thing she’s done during the entire film and shoots him with the other cop’s gun that coincidentally happens to be in the pocket of his jacket, which she coincidentally decided to bring with her on her run out of her apartment, into the partner’s car, on the long drive through the country, and into the red lighthouse/weiner. Even though she shoots him in the leg (they show it), the overhead shot shows him dead laying on top of her bleeding from a chest wound. Call the Warren Commission, we’ve got another magic bullet.

It’s a shame that the wonderful Meg Ryan chose this piece of dreck as the first film where she bares her assets, as this film is not worthy. Ms. Ryan does a good job with what she’s given, and shows acting chops that make me very interested to see her first (good) serious film. This film, however, does not work on any level. I can’t see that it could be empowering for women (but I await correction on that assumption), it’s not a thriller, it’s not a police procedural, it’s not erotic, it’s not dramatic, it’s not funny, it’s not deep, it has no message, it has no layers, it’s not metaphorical of anything interesting/important/serious enough to care about, and it’s not anything but a complete waste of everyone’s time, effort, and money.

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