In the Cut (2003)

This thriller’s vicious critical and audience reaction upon initial release is almost inconceivable in retrospect. It’s true that it’s strange to see Meg Ryan play a character that’s rather inaccessible and requires a great deal of graphic nudity, but both Ryan’s strong performance and director Jane Campion’s camera distract from the rubbernecking that comes with seeing a major star disrobe, keeping the nudity and sexuality front-and-center but never succumbing to a sleazy leer. Instead, Campion’s camera here is distinctly mature and female: This is a movie about sexuality, but specifically female sexuality, and it’s entirely captivating in its uniqueness. While the movie’s whodunit aspect is almost negligible, there’s so much thematic and symbolic potency running through each scene – right down to camera use, which often morphs depending on an individual scene’s respective tone – that this feels both like a movie and a novel at the same time. As noted above, Ryan is excellent here, demonstrating a simultaneous rich inner life and outward aloofness, and she’s surrounded by top-notch support from a bold Mark Ruffalo, Kevin Bacon and, in particular, Jennifer Jason Leigh. There’s nothing quite like “In the Cut” and I’m consistently surprised that it hasn’t found an audience yet.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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