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I am methodically watching/rewatching Jane Campion's filmography (obviously The Piano, Sweetie, and Top Of The Lake are still amazing) and found this mostly forgotten literary-trash crime thriller with Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo. I must have watched this for the first time way too young and I remember being too disturbed by the sex scenes to finish it. I was very sheltered.
Shocked to see that this got torn apart by the public in 2003; pretty sure it was just ahead of it's time because if this came out today it would make for a well-received streaming movie or something. Only the early 2000's MTV-style cinematography has aged poorly.
I recommend watching it with absolutely no concept of the premise, because half of the movie's strength is in the disorienting experience of piecing together the narrative. Meg Ryan plays a teacher whose (very obviously just post-9/11) New York neighbourhood is plagued by a serial killer ripping women's limbs off. Somehow, Campion manages to deconstruct the very idea of a "dead woman" movie, but it's still creepy and graphic. I think people hated it because the trailer promised a torture porn Saw-like slasher and instead Campion gives you something closer to Polanski.
(There's an extreme closeup of Mark Ruffalo getting a BJ, if you're into that)
Little bit of trivia: Nicole Kidman wanted the lead role and I think she brought it to Jane Campion's attention. She dropped out but has a Producer's credit.
It's also based on a book by Susanna Moore, which I read.
Certain scenes in the movie made me gasp, you're not alone there, Ben. Of course they wouldn't today but they did back then.
And audiences were sadly not ready for Meg Ryan to take on a role like this which is a shame. Some of the critics were outright scathing and rude (Michael Parkinson's now infamous interview with her) comes to mind, (I think he apologized later) and she was pretty much put on the defensive with every interview she did.