What do I hate the most in movies and TV? Stupid people. This may seem harsh, okay, stupid characters. Actual stupid people can be quite interesting on reality TV. Despite playing an college English teacher, Meg Ryan’s character in In The Cut is termendously stupid. There is a hint to this when she illustrates her lecture on To The Lighthouse by drawing a lighthouse on the blackboard. Jane Campion’s film uses shaky camera, intimations of repression and lashings of sex to try to hide her idiocy, but in the end I was waving my fist at the screen as if a group of kids in a haunted house had just decided to split up.
Basically in the sketchily defined world of Ryan, there is a serial killer. For script economy reasons were are only really introduced to three suspects. Kevin Bacon’s weirdo ex, Cornelius her intense black student and Mark Ruffalo’s sexy yet moustachioed cop. We quickly find out that the killed has a distinctive tattoo, which Ruffalo has. Yet this fact is never, ever followed up, through the two more murders. Instead Ryan is happy to keep shagging Ruffalo and then worry about him being the murderer. The viewer, veterans of much more complex TV mysteries, know that if there are three suspects, the culprit is none of them. Since there is only one other male character in it… The tattoo situation being so important that we know from the moment it is raised that the killer isn’t the student or Bacon. Which means it must be Ruffalo, which would remove the suspense so it must be someone else.
Campion would probably riposte that this is not really a murder mystery at all, rather a meditation on sexuality and Meg Ryan’s new brown hair. To which I say don’t make your lead character so stupid. The key point is that a film is always in trouble when it kills of the most likeable character in it. Here this is Jennifer Jason Leigh’s sister character, and from the moment she got it, I could not care less.