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Movie Reviews in the Cut 2003

Directed & Written: Jane Campion (Holy Smoke, Portrait of a Lady, The Piano); screenplay adapted from the novel by Susanna Moore

Starring: Meg Ryan (Proof of Life, City of Angels, When A Man Loves A Woman, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally), Mark Ruffalo (Suddenly 30, View From The Top, The Last Castle), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Road To Perdition, A Thousand Acres, Single White Female, The Hitcher)

Meg Ryan is barely recognizable and very brave in this disturbing psychological thiller. Frannie (Ryan) is a writer and teacher who has a close relationship with her half-sister Pauline (Jason Leigh). A brutal murder occurs in their neighbourhood and Detective Malloy (Ruffalo) is sent to investigate. Frannie suspects Detective Malloy may have been sexually involved with the victim prior to her death yet she herself is unable to refuse entertaining him sexually due to his forward nature . . . she is compelled to submit to him when he expresses an interest in her . . . perhaps out of curiousity, perhaps out of her own sexual desires . . . she fears him yet trusts him at the same time. This film is full of intimidating and volatile males, they have frustrated unpredictable outbursts, they yell, they say degrading things, and they are violent . . . Campion is showing us the link between sex and violence in relationships between men and women . . . she is also showing us the instinctual desire of women to preserve this time-honoured link between sex and violence . . . and this I found frightening. Does Frannie find the threat of violence sexually exciting? Does Frannie seek out violent men or are they simply impossible to avoid? This film keeps you guessing plot-wise yet is elegant and visually stunning as any of Campions other work. It has a dreamy surreal atmosphere which turns nightmarish wih graphic blood-drenched crimes scenes. The sex scenes between Ryan and Ruffalo are confronting and open, as is their pillow-talk. I was surprised to see full-frontal nudity from our sweet little Meg, but she is so taken over by this character you forget it is even her. This is a shocking film that really needs to be watched twice to be appreciated for its subtleties and artistic direction.