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Inconsistent script is In The Cut's downfall

Arthur J Pais | November 01, 2003 14:10 IST

A still from In The CutIt is very gutsy of Meg Ryan, who has seduced millions with her cutie-pie image in popular films like Sleepless In Seattle and You've Got Mail, to take on such a sexually explict role.

She also emotes well in this dark, gritty and menacing suspense film.

But the script and direction by Jane Campion, still remembered for her mesmerising The Piano, is so inconsistent you lose interest midway.

Campion is more interested in probing the tortured souls of her main characters than building some real suspense. And she doesn't do a very good job of it either. It is perfectly fine to create a psychological study of a dangerous intimacy in the framework of a thriller, provided the psychological examination doesn't affect the movie's flow.

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See the 1960s classic Klute, and admire how it treated psychology, suspense and New York City.

The film is based on a novel by Susanna Moore. Moore also collaborated with the script, though one wonders how much of a say she had in the final scripting, given that this is her first screenplay.

Don't blame Moore's lurid, graphic, but heartpounding 1995 novel of the same name for Campion's failure because Campion had taken big missteps two years ago with the classic Henry James novel, Portrait Of A Lady.

Though Campion has to be applauded for making a female-driven film that courageously probes the darker human impulses, one feels the result could have been better with someone else coming up with a sharper script.

A still from In The CutThe ending, with a twist that looks too contrived, might surprise many who are devoted to Moore's conclusion in the book. At the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film premiered in September, some viewers thought the ending was a big let-down.

As the New York writing professor Frannie Avery who is drawn into a relationship with an earthy police detective harbouring a sinister secret, Ryan offers a fearless, raw and insightful performance. Responding to her strong acting, Mark Ruffalo as detective Malloy, who is entrusted with the investigation of a grisly murder of a young woman near Frannie's house, burns the screen with one of the more riveting performances in recent years.

These are the kind of performances that would have easily got Oscar nominations had the film been more interesting.

A still from In The CutFrannie suspects Malloy as the man with an odd tattoo on his wrist whom she spied having an encounter with a woman in a local bar. The encounter is followed by a horrendous act. Despite her suspicion of Malloy, Frannie cannot help being attracted to him and her half-sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encourages her.

Soon, Frannie has to add one more suspect to her very short list: her ex-boyfriend (unbilled Kevin Bacon). Her nightmares continue as she even suspects her student  (Sharrieff Pugh), who is writing a paper that insists on the innocence of a serial killer.

After a while, the film overwhelms the viewer. You can take only so much of the gritty atmosphere. You can take only so much of sex talk. And you can only allow so much of psychoanalysis. You suddenly get the urge then to order Campion to release her characters from the analyst's couch.

Cast: Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sharrieff Pugh
Director: Jane Campion
Story: Jane Campion, Susanna Moore based on latter's novel, In The Cut
Running time: 114 minutes
Rating: R for sexuality, nudity, language and violence
Distributed by: Screen Gems/Sony

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