(Originally posted on 3/10/04)
In the Cut, Jane Campion’s grimy, misogynistic faux-murder mystery seems stuck in a time warp. From Mark Ruffalo’s ‘70s porn star moustache and the grungy New York City setting to the film’s offensive and outdated notions of female sexuality, the film is like a long-lost relic from an earlier period best forgotten. Meg Ryan, mistakenly making a bid for art-house credibility by showing off her underwhelming mammaries, is Frannie, a sexually repressed English lit professor attracted to dangerous men. Frannie longingly watches a man enjoy fellatio from an anonymous blonde in a pub bathroom, but her juices don’t really start flowing until a lewd cop named Malloy (Ruffalo) shows up to tell her that the girl from the bar has been murdered. Although Malloy and the guy enjoying head at the bar both have the same tattoo, Frannie (as well as her flighty sister Pauline, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) ignores the warning signs and decides to enjoy some uninhibited sex with the police officer. The more cruelly and profanely Malloy acts, the more Frannie becomes aroused, but Ruffalo is so repulsive and Ryan so creepily gawky and weepy that the whole thing plays out like a preposterous thesis paper on how women yearn to be dominated by uncouth pricks. As if to add to the aura of kinky degradation, Campion has cinematographer Dion Beebe shoot everything through what seems to be a thick filter of vaseline, giving her images an oily, unfocused pretentiousness. This grating visual approach complements the anachronistic Manhattan setting, which is dominated by dilapidated pubs, sleazy strip clubs, and garbage-strewn streets that are as embarrassingly phony as Frannie’s impolite perversions. Some women may like to be treated poorly by their men, but no one -- myself included -- enjoys a movie that’s as insultingly idiotic as In the Cut.