Case Number 04125


Sony // 2003 // 119 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Elizabeth Skipper (Retired) // March 22nd, 2004

The Charge

Thinking back on the course of my passion
I was like one blind,
Unafraid of the dark"

Opening Statement

For each review we write, we Judges must choose from a list of genres the ones necessary to describe the movie. So far, I've chosen "crime," "drama," "erotic," "mystery," "noir," and "thriller," and I'm still not sure I've fully captured the complexity of In the Cut.

Hauntingly sexual, earnest yet terrifying, and always beautiful, this movie has taken up residence under my skin, leaving me at a loss for words. But I'll try...

Facts of the Case

When Frannie Avery (Meg Ryan, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Kate & Leopold) comes home one afternoon to find Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo, You Can Count on Me, The Last Castle, View from the Top) waiting at her doorstep, her life takes a turn for the surreal. And when she spots Malloy's tattoo and recognizes him as the man she spied receiving oral sex a couple days earlier, the surreal takes on a decidedly erotic tinge.

While Malloy investigates a brutal murder, which will soon become the first in a series, Frannie begins to suspect he played a hand in it. But is her passion making her blind?

The Evidence

"Hauntingly sexual," "earnest yet terrifying," "always beautiful" -- these are not phrases we are accustomed to associating with a Meg Ryan movie. "Cute," yes. "Funny and romantic," of course. But never before has a movie starring the usually effervescent and endearing actor left me stunned and confused. Never before has she really affected me.

I believe she owes it all to director Jane Campion. I don't mean to dismiss Ryan's talent and ability, because they are significant, but they've been mostly wasted, lying in wait (or worse, on screen, in such drivel as You've Got Mail) for inspiration. Here, Campion has provided that inspiration. She has also elicited similarly subtle yet powerful performances from Ryan's costars, namely Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female), and Kevin Bacon (Footloose, Mystic River).

Her feats don't stop there, either. In the Cut is art, Campion its creator. The camera work and the cinematography are exquisite. Shots linger just long enough to make us think every detail is of consequence, and with every detail so obviously and intricately planned, perhaps they are all momentous. The palette rivals that of Amélie: over-saturated greens and reds abound in seemingly infinite combinations, so that looking away from the screen at the blues and yellows of the real world provides a bit of a shock. It all serves to engulf us in the other-world of the movie, leaving us, too, to wonder if we have become blind to the obvious, if our senses are tricking us.

But I'm still not quite done heaping on the praise. Campion's ultimate achievement in In the Cut is taking the relatively simplistic plot of Susanna Moore's screenplay (based on her own novel), with its one, almost (though, thankfully, not completely) predictable twist, and weaving it into a visual and nonverbal tale of high intrigue and suspense. In the hands of any other director, In the Cut would have fallen flat. Jane Campion has brought it to life.

Have you noticed how many paragraphs I've refrained from mentioning the "uncut" aspect of this DVD? I wanted to judge the film on its own merits, separate from the controversial full-frontal nudity (of both Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo) and the intimate view of the oral sex in one of the first scenes (though, as we find out in the commentary, we're actually watching a prosthetic). And the movie stands on its own; without the extra shots, it would still be a passionate and unique take on a basic murder mystery. With the extra shots, it becomes even more. The nudity adds a raw sexuality, an insistent and almost desperate quality that makes In the Cut even more powerful and even more effective. Despite its gratuity to the plot, I find it necessary to the film as a whole.

The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer does not quite meet the standards set by a movie so reliant on visual cues and ambiance, but it comes close. The colors are not bright, but they're obviously not supposed to be, so that's no problem. The blacks are deep, and the picture, on the whole, is crisp. Some shimmering appears in the darker scenes -- more than is warranted for such a recent disc -- but it's not a distraction. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio track is similarly adequate, with mild to moderate use of the surrounds and bass that kicks in perfectly during musical interludes.

Included on this disc are:
* An audio commentary with director Jane Campion and producer Laurie Parker, which I expected to be more enlightening. It's informative and mildly entertaining, but nothing earth-shattering is revealed.
* "Frannie Avery's Slang Dictionary," which gives definitions for a few slang words, most of which we probably could have figured out for ourselves.
* In the Cut: Behind the Scenes, an educational 15-minute look at the movie and its cast and crew.
* Trailers for In the Cut, The Missing, Sin, and Trapped.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I'm confused about why the slang dictionary is included as a bonus feature, because Frannie's writing of such a dictionary is barely mentioned at the beginning of the movie and never discussed again. And, if including it was really necessary, why wasn't a definition for "in the cut" provided? (According to, it means "having sex," though to "lay in the cut" means to "hang out in the background," so we still can't be sure what novelist Susanna Moore intended.)

Closing Statement

The previews showed a sexy whodunit, and, while In the Cut is that, it is also so much more, and so much better. But this Uncut Edition is not for anyone with prudish tendencies. And with quite a bit of gore thrown in, the faint-of-heart should probably avoid it as well. But if sex and violence don't bother you, I can think of no reason you shouldn't at least rent this movie. If nothing else, you can't pass up the chance to see Meg Ryan in a decent dramatic role.

The Verdict

The charge of murder in the first degree is dropped due to lack of evidence. The charge of indecent exposure stands, but the defendant is found not guilty by reason of artistic license.

Case adjourned.

Review content copyright © 2004 Elizabeth Skipper; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 93
Audio: 94
Extras: 88
Acting: 100
Story: 82
Judgment: 96

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)

* French

Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated

Distinguishing Marks
* Audio Commentary with Director Jane Campion and Producer Laurie Parker
* Frannie Avery's Slang Dictionary
* Featurette: In the Cut: Behind the Scenes
* Trailers for In the Cut, The Missing, Sin, and Trapped

* IMDb