2003-11-14 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

‘In The Cut’ – Still Looking For Mr. Goodbar

In 1977, a hot movie was "Looking for Mr. Goodbar." It starred Diane Keaton as an intellectual nymphomaniac... cruising sleazy bars, seeking sex and asking for trouble. In the end, she gets her comeuppance, courtesy of a suitably sick suitor (William Atherton). It was the perfect movie for puritan America, hiding under the swinging ‘70’s.

Now, we have "In the Cut." It features Meg Ryan, sans her sunny personality and playing a morose academic (English professor, actually) obsessed with New York City street slang and hanging out in lower-than-low class strip clubs and bars. There, she researches her book on ugly talk and mingles with men who may kill or at least be unkind to her. Like Keaton’s character, Frannie Avery sees danger as an aphrodisiac.

One night, she is granted her wish for excitement while walking to a basement bathroom in a bar. She spots (and spies on) a man with a wrist tattoo receiving oral sex from a woman adorned with diamonds on her fingernails. Though unable to get a good glimpse of the man’s face, Frannie leaves the establishment, her head full of haunting sexual imagery. Before long, Detective James Mallory (Mark Ruffalo) is knocking on her door. The girl with diamond nails is dead... murdered shortly after Frannie vacated the bar. And guess what? Mallory has the same wrist tattoo as does the mystery man.

True to the "Goodbar’ formula, our heroine welcomes the possible killer cop in to bed. And does again, even after she finds her gal-pal Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) decapitated in her apartment bathroom above a noisy strip joint. As she has before, Frannie confronts her lover/cop about his role in the murder, but continues to have sex with him.

Based on the novel by Susanna Moore, "In the Cut" is co-written (with Moore) and directed by Jane "The Piano" Campion. When co-producer Nicole Kidman left the lead, Ryan took the torch, removed her smile and did her hair like that of the "The Hours" Oscar winner. It’s a non-performance, where she has to go nude for no reason.

Bathed in dark sepia colors and shaky camera work by cinematographer Dion Beebe, "Cut" is depressing from the opening shot to the last scene. The acting is intentionally nasty and lifeless... so much so that it’s hard to care if anyone is killed. In one scene, Frannie is brutally slammed by a taxi; while in another, she is violently assaulted. Because both incidents don’t have a lot of impact on her mentally or physcially, why should they have any affect on us, the audience members?

"In the Cut" is afflicted with a terrible case of the blahs. For those looking an urban psycho-sexual murder mystery, "Goodbar" is better. Better to rent the video and watch Keaton do the wrong thing right.

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