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In The Cut - I did make the mistake of teasing my backers with the thought of a Se7en



Feature by: Jack Foley

Whether it’s exchanging mail with Tom Hanks in New York, simulating an orgasm in a diner opposite Billy Crystal, or trying to recover from alcoholism with the help of Andy Garcia, Meg Ryan is, more than any other actress, considered to be Hollywood’s romantic comedy/drama queen, writes Rob Carnevale.

Needless to say, eyes were very much raised when it was announced that, for her latest project, In The Cut, Ryan would not only be doing away with her bubbly blonde, squeaky-clean image, but also her clothes, in a thriller which featured graphic sex scenes and some equally extreme violence.

So was this a brave attempt to move away from an established image, or merely a timely reminder that, at 41, there is more to the actress than mere good looks and fairytale endings.

Ryan, though, downplayed any notion that the role of the repressed school teacher, who witnesses the prelude to a brutal murder, before embarking on a dangerous relationship with the lead officer investigating it (Mark Ruffalo), required any sort of ‘bravery’ on her part.

"I felt like I was in such sure hands with Jane [Campion, director], so I didn't really feel that it required some extreme amount of bravery on my part to trust her," she explained at a recent London press conference, held at The Dorchester Hotel.

"I loved the script, and loved her sensibility, and I knew Mark [Ruffalo] was going to be there. I do think that the character is extremely brave, however, and we talked about her often as a warrior, and as somebody who is a very unlikely person to risk her heart for a guy.

"I felt that this is the thing you need a lot of bravery to do. And she is somebody who is in so much of a remission, within herself, and so broken-hearted, and so not anybody who is likely to be able to connect with somebody as extremely and as beautifully as she does with Detective Malloy."

Indeed, it is one of the defining features of Miss Campion’s film that it does not exist solely as a detective story, but rather as a provocative and unflinching exploration of the nature of modern relationships, particularly when played out in a city as large as New York.

Campion, herself, who attended the press conference with Ryan, certainly believes the story offered the opportunity to explore some of the situations facing women today, ‘who are dealing with both their independence, and also the fact that their lives are built around finding and satisfying the romantic models that we grew up with’.

"It creates an enormous amount of grief," she continued. "Women can postpone their lives, in a way, sometimes thinking that if they're not with a partner, they're an unloved person, or an unloved woman; they're still searching for their prince in a way.
"And as much as we don't discuss that concept, I think it really does exist."

Ryan agrees, adding: "I know a lot of my friends, who have seen the movie, so deeply relate to that aspect of it - that these romantic myths don't apply to them, and how heartbreaking that can feel; especially if you feel alone with that idea."

As such, Ryan’s decision to embark upon a relationship with someone as frank and as honest as Ruffalo’s Detective Malloy provided another enticing piece of the puzzle, particularly as far as Campion was concerned.

"I was really taken with the story and loved the style of its author, Susanna Moore," she explained. "It was really special to me, because this character felt like someone I'd know, and that she should come up against this world of detectives, that were very authentically drawn, with the kind of language they used, and how crude they were at times, and yet how brutally honest, which, in a weird way, is attractive, was really interesting."

Hence, Ryan’s character consistently feels like a very vulnerable figure, daring to open up her heart to a man who could well be a killer, while also struggling to cope with the violence that appears to be closing in on her.

This foreboding sense of fear is another aspect which appealed to all concerned, although attempts to market it as a crime thriller purely in the Se7en mould led to at least one distributor getting cold feet.

"I did make the mistake of teasing my backers with the thought of a Se7en, but it did become clear that it wasn't really like that movie at all," confesses the director, when asked about the original backers’ decision to pull out.

"They were set on something different, which maybe I had helped to establish in their mind, and I didn't want to back off what we were moving towards.

"For me, the genre was of no value to me, unless it was working for me, rather than me working for it.
I wanted to do a relationship-based story, and I did."

"It also meant that we had to find a way to shoot it cheaply, so we went for 100 per cent New York City, and had to reduce our budget," she continued.

"But we wanted to do that, because we felt that it would make us create circumstances that were more 'streety', and gritty."

Hence, it is little wonder to find that Campion will argue against suggestions that the end product is a cold experience, even though one of the journalists at the press conference admitted to feeling that way about it.

"I do honour everyone's response, but for me, I think, that while the surface is cold, what's going on underneath, where everyone is searching to satisfy their desire, is much warmer; they are looking for a way into a real relationship from a place you would doubt is there," she explained.

"I think it's a film with grief around it, and I think that the whole point of grief is that it comes to people with heart. There is a lot of affection and love between the sisters, or half-sisters, and even between the detective and Ryan’s character. There was also a lot of love in the way we filmed it," she concluded.

In The Cut, which was selected to open this year’s London Film Festival, opens nation-wide on October 31 and, as one might imagine, is an intelligent, adult affair, which makes for provocative viewing. It is well worth seeing.

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