Meg Ryan shocked audiences with her fake orgasm 14 years ago in “When Harry Met Sally,” and now, with “In the Cut,” she’s doing it for real, and completely bare. An uncharacteristic Ryan takes a break from her usual romantic comedies to work with director and co-writer Jane Campion (“The Piano”) for this thriller based on the book by Susanna Moore.

Janna Hutz
I am? I am the dog? I am the dog? (Courtesy of Screen Gems)

Frannie Avery (Meg Ryan), an English professor surrounded by bad grammar, is mysterious, lonely and repressed. She gets her kicks talking about sex with her half-sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hudsucker Proxy”) and by meeting with an overly interested student (Sharrieff Pugh).

When an arm of a “de-articulated” woman winds up beneath Frannie’s window, she begins her sexually explosive affair with investigating Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo, “You Can Count on Me”). As Frannie becomes more and more obsessed with sex and death (the two things Malloy can give her) she edges herself closer to danger.

Although Ruffalo’s cop role is very stereotypical, his acting is on target and so believable that you sympathize with his lies, hoping they’re the truth. In comparison, Ryan’s acting, although years better than “Kate and Leopold,” is less than inspired. She wanders through the film so lost and dopey, it’s a wonder she wasn’t the first murder victim.

“In the Cut” is a chaotic compilation of themes. Numerous detached motifs of marriage, American flags, lighthouses and family are easily forgotten. With flashbacks of Frannie’s father and supposedly meaningful subway poetry that doesn’t quite stick, there is too much imagery with too little relevance.

The mood of the film, however, is extremely powerful. The dimly lit sets create a mysterious and sensual mood that supports Frannie’s sexual enchantment. The cinematography jumps back and forth between shaky handheld camera work to scenes as still as photographs, providing a luring feeling, almost as if you’re being watched.

With an overall haziness that not only inhibits Frannie but also makes a mess of the film’s intent, “In the Cut” relies on the overall aura of passion and sexuality. An anti-climactic ending to an already dismal effort leaves one to wonder if the film is the wrong genre or just another mediocre remake of a novel.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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