In the Cut (2003): Jane Campion’s Erotic Thriller Starring Meg Ryan

In her new erotic thriller, In the Cut, writer-director Jane Campion tries–but ultimately fails—to reach a wider audience with a presumably more accessible genre film.

The cast, headed by Meg Ryan, and including Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Jason Leigh, is impressive but the picture is neither erotic not thrilling—it lacks suspense and defies narrative logic.

Campion’s screenplay is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Susanna Moore.  The film’s heroine, Frannie, is a college English professor who becomes entangled with a detective investigating gruesome murders in her neighborhood.

Nicole Kidman, in her producing debut, and Jane Campion spent years developing the film. Kidman was originally cast as Frannie, but dropped out due to amily reasons.

High school teacher and writer Frannie Avery meets a student at a local bar.  When she heads to the bathroom, she sees a woman performing oral sex on a man.

Days later, Detective Giovanni Malloy (Ruffalo) investigates the gruesome murder of a woman, whose severed limb was found in Frannie’s garden.

Too conveniently, they meet at the same bar later. Frannie is intrigued—both thrilled and frightened by the detective’s sexual allure. But she finds the behavior of Mallow’s detective’s partner, Richard Rodriguez to be crude; later, she finds out that Rodriguez can no longer carry a gun because of a threat he had made against his unfaithful wife.

On her way home, she is assaulted and calls Malloy for help, thereupon beginning an affair with him. Frannie recognizes the detective’s tattoo, from the man in the bar’s basement; she later asks her sister Pauline if she would trust a man who got a blow job in public.

It takes her too long to begin suspecting that Malloy may be the killer, especially after another victim is found.  She really gets scared when she observes him shooting at garbage bags. He suggests that she learn how to shoot, and she follows order by taking aim and shooting well.

Upon finding her sister Pauline’s dismembered body, she becomes even more frightened of Malloy. Back at home, she gets drunk, and almost stumbles into bed with her student . Malloy’s partner is outside watching as the young man runs out, and Frannie shouts out the window that Malloy should stay away from her. When he comes over to help her, —she cuffs him to a pipe and makes love to him.

Finding in his jacket the missing charms from her bracelet makes her even more suspicious. Stumbling into his partner, Frannie tells Rodriguez what she saw, and they sit in his car and talk.

Rodriguez drives her out to the George Washington bridge, and then shows her his arm tattoo, a twin of Malloy’s.  In the end, she shoots him with Malloy’s gun when he tries to strangle her.  Back in her apartment, she cuddles with Malloy, who is still cuffed to the pipe.



Meg Ryan as Frannie Avery

Mark Ruffalo as Detective Giovanni A. Malloy

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Pauline

Nick Damici as Detective Richard Rodriguez

Patrice O’Neal as Hector

Kevin Bacon as John Graham