When this Jane Campion-directed thriller starring Meg Ryan was released in 2003, almost no one gave it any love. Receiving only 33% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it was called “A flaccid thriller as lifeless as the film's many decapitated corpses” that “builds slowly, slowly, slowly, towards a truly stupid climax”.?And yet, it's one of my most beloved, not-even-that-guilty pleasures. I just don't think the world was ready for it.
It's an odd pairing and I think that's the main reason people reacted so negatively to it: if you were looking for a raunchy steamy thriller, you got it–but what was the deal with the frames being half out of focus, the deliberate pacing, and the art school sequences of sienna tinted ice skaters?
If you were looking for a Jane Campion classic, you also got it. Meg Ryan acts tall and reserved like she though Nicole Kidman would, and Campion's arty photography (used unnecessarily here, but to great effect) gives the movie a unique look, like a modern, live action photo book reminiscent of the work of Diane Arbus or Robert Frank, shot entirely in New York City… But you probably weren't as psyched to hear lines like, “You want me to be your best friend, f**k you, treat you good, lick your p***y? No problem”; you probably found Ryan's occupation as an Ebonics professor laughable; and you probably weren't expecting so many bloody and gory sequences.
The hybrid makes more sense when you know that the source material, a reportedly gruesome novel by Susanna Moore, (quite out of character for Moore,?a writer best know for her memoirs about growing up in Hawaii) was written while she was reading every mystery novel she could find?and tons of pornography. She felt the two genres had not been handled by women, and she decided to have at it.
Though most will disagree the end result is nothing short of totally awesome. Mark Ruffalo is at his best here, making a stud cop straight from women's porno fantasies, delivering lines like the dirty one previously mentioned, as a believable realistic character. Ryan is fine as the icy teacher embroiled in the murder plot, and the supporting cast is phenomenal.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, who I for some reason I just can't manage to like, is really superb as Ryan's kind of crazy/kind of slutty sister; and Kevin Bacon embodies the kind of stalking ex-boyfriend we've all known or heard about so well that I'm surprised more people haven't utilized him in creepier ways more often.
I even watched it a second time to ensure I was not insane when I loved it the first time. I am not insane.