*. I wish I could like this movie. It’s different. It takes some real chances. And David Thomson was beyond effusive in his praise of it: “It is one of the great films of the twenty-first century, and of the hundred years of film that preceded it.” But I can’t get on board. The majority of critical and public opinion got it right. It’s awful.
*. I’ll start off with what I like, which I can limit to Meg Ryan. I don’t think it’s a remarkable performance, but critics in particular tend to go over-the-top in crediting actresses who eschew glamour. Still, she’s solid playing Frannie, an English prof who is studying urban slang, teaching To the Lighthouse, and hanging out at sleazy joints looking for Mr. Goodbar. Because being single and an intellectual means she needs some.
*. Many of those who praised In the Cut did so because they saw it as presenting a female perspective on women’s desire. I can see where that’s coming from, as it’s based on a Susanna Moore novel, directed by Jane Campion, and was produced by a pair of women (Laurie Parker and Nicole Kidman, the latter being originally slated to play Frannie). But was this really the best way to deliver such a message?
*. What is bold about such a generic silk-stockings-and-slasher flick? There were an endless run of Dressed to Kill rip-offs like this that went straight to video in the 1980s. Is In the Cut so different?
*. And what is feminist about any of it? Perhaps the foregrounding of the sisterhood motif in the relationship between Frannie and her step-sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Aside from that we have the well-educated but underserviced professional woman who melts in the arms of the swarthy police detective who is sworn to serve and protect her. He was also trained in the arts of cunnilingus by the Chicken Lady — a story that sounds made-up, but she had to ask how he “did that” to her and this was likely the best he could do on the spot. And it made Jack Lowden King of Scotland, so don’t knock it.
*. Are we meant to be impressed by his oral skills? Or the fact that he wears a condom? On the DVD commentary track Campion says she found this “considerate.” I would have thought it obligatory or at the very least de rigueur by 2003.
*. I don’t think In the Cut was meant to be a thriller. But I’m not sure how erotic it was meant to be either. Mark Ruffalo’s Detective Malloy struck me as a caricature Mr. Smooth, all smug and phoney with a nauseating swagger and 1970s pornstache. Even worse, he really doesn’t seem that in to Frannie. He’s also a lousy kisser, though Campion loved the way he smushes his face into Ryan’s. All a matter of taste I guess.
*. Her options on the side are similar stereotypes. There’s the burly Black man (Sharieff Pugh) with the soul of a poet. And Keven Bacon as the stalker ex. How Bacon’s character, who is working 18 hours a day in a hospital as a med student, has the time to follow Frannie around literally everywhere, at all hours, is beyond me. I guess he’s just Kevin Bacon. He’s also such an obvious red herring that his caricature character would be out of place in any movie less obvious than this one.
*. The way the film was shot was bold. Unfortunately, and I don’t like saying this, it’s also very ugly. I’m not sure what the technique used was, but much of the frame is out of focus a lot of the time, and the colour scheme looks sickly and unnatural more than it does gritty. A lot of people seemed to like it though.
*. A dull, overwrought thriller with a bland and unoriginal take on “female desire.” Today it seems to have been mostly forgotten, though there are people like Thomson who continue to carry a torch for it. For what it’s worth, those who like it seem to be of an older generation than my own. Leading me to an observation I rarely make: perhaps I’m just too young to get it.