Feature by: Jack Foley
Whether its 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 Hollywoods
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 Campions
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, Ryans decision to embark upon a relationship with
someone as frank and as honest as Ruffalos 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, Ryans 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 Ryans 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 years 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.