In the Cut

If there ever was an era when America wanted to see Meg Ryan naked — and this is doubtful — it surely ended 10 years ago. Yet here comes “In the Cut,” a flat, pretentious psychodrama in which Meggers does the full monty, for several seconds, and then she keeps being topless for what seems like hours, and then again later on, for no good reason. She looks fine, especially for a woman of 41, but this is not the way we want to see cute and perky Meg Ryan. Meg Ryan needs to have clothes on. I’m just sayin’.

Oh, but there are more reasons to dislike this movie. Meg plays Frannie Avery, a high school literature teacher in New York City who loves words and poetry and lives alone in a small apartment. She has a sister, Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is mildly crazy and obsessive, a student (Sharrieff Pugh) who’s a little too interested in John Wayne Gacy, and a guy she used to date (Kevin Bacon) who now stalks her. So life is good in the Big Apple.

Then Frannie meets Detective James Malloy (Mark Ruffalo) and his vulgar partner Richard Rodriguez (Nick Damici). They’re investigating the murder and dismemberment of a local girl; seems her head was found in Frannie’s courtyard. Frannie recognizes a couple clues (I won’t spoil anything) and compiles a mental list of suspects of her own, all while beginning a steamy relationship with Malloy.

The director, Jane Campion (“The Piano”), who adapted Susanna Moore’s novel with Moore’s help, has a rather standard murder mystery on her hands, yet she refuses to accept it. The film keeps trying to be something else — sexually charged drama, exposé on big-city paranoia, showcase for Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo nudity, etc. — but these things are annoyances, distractions from what’s really going on.

Muddying the waters even further is the cryptic, arch dialogue that permeates every moment of the film. There are few normal conversations. Everyone speaks oddly, seldom answering one another’s questions and issuing non-sequiturs while traipsing through too-dark interiors — all the hallmarks of a film trying to be Important and Meaningful when it’s not.

Meg Ryan actually does pretty well, though, despite the crap she has to work with. Her cute-and-perky demeanor in this case makes her seem vulnerable, which is good for a character in her dangerous position. I like a clothed Meg, and I like seeing her do something risky, even if, as in this case, it doesn’t pan out.

D+ (1 hr., 58 min.; R, abundant harsh profanity, abundant nudity and strong sexuality, some very strong violence and a lot of blood.)