This is a flawed movie, but it has some things going for it. First and foremost is Meg Ryan’s performance: understated but intense none the less. She meets difficult material with a lot of poise, and makes drama out of situations that could easily have slipped over the line into the ridiculous.
The second thing I liked about it was the camera work. I anticipate that critics will complain that it’s too self conscious, but I’ve rarely seen a movie that really captures what Manhattan can feel like when it’s at its rawest. The camera’s eye makes some surprising and revealing moves. It also over -does it at times, but the high points are many.
With the exception of the young man who plays Ryan’s student — he felt a little too packaged for my tastes — the performances ranged from excellent (Ryan herself) to okay (Ruffalo’s partner).
What really went wrong, I think, is that the director was supposed to be making a thriller/suspense/murder mystery and she kept getting sidetracked (or maybe she doesn’t really like the genre she was working in). So the last ten minutes are pretty awful, in terms of plot.
Two other points: the violence around the murders is explicit, as is the sex (the most explicit I’ve seen in a long time), and some of the symbolism (especially the language play) is a little forced.