The Talented Mr. Ripley

1999

Adapted from the mystery/suspense novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is a slow, unfolding tale of one man's journey from being a real nobody to a fake somebody. Matt Damon is Tom Ripley, an imposter who was sent by a wealthy New York couple to retrieve their son Dickie (Jude Law) from his self-imposed European exile. Mr. and Mrs. Greenleaf pay Ripley $1,000 plus expenses because they believe him to be a fellow Ivy Leaguer who knew Dickie from Princeton. The truth is that Tom never attended school with Dickie and took the jacket from someone who did. This is the first in a string of clever deceptions that Tom uses to climb the social ladder and assume the lives of those he envies. On his way to Italy, he meets Meredith (Cate Blanchett) a wealthy socialite to whom Tom introduces himself as young Master Greenleaf instead of as himself because he does not want to seem her social inferior. They part ways, believing that they will never meet again, but they do meet again and it only complicates the web of lies that Tom weaves. Finally Tom arrives in Italy and finds Dickie soaking up rays with his girlfriend Marge (Gwenyth Paltrow). He introduces himself to the couple and states his mission. Although Dickie says he doesn't remember Tom from Princeton, he invites him into his home and humors him. Tom is jealous of Dickie's life; wealth, fine education, beautiful fianceť, life abroad, and very carefree. He is finally accepted into the Dickie's inner circle and starts to follow him around, stay at his home, and wear his clothes. Tom is disliked by Dickie's best friend Freddie (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is wary of him and suspects that Ripley is not all what he seems, or not what he seems at all.

How the rest of the movie folds out is very interesting, if at times a bit slow. Matt Damon does dead-on impressions of impersonations of Dickie's father (James Rebhorn) and the non-verbal communication between the characters give more insight into their thoughts than any vocalization could. The looks, sneers, glares, eye and facial movements change from warm and friendly to cold and guarded as people come to know, or realize how little they know about Tom. How Ripley handles this is a secret of the plot that I should not reveal, but it doesn't end with everyone holding hands singing "Kumbya". I will say that there will be treachery, bloodshed, and deception. How and if he gets away with it will be seen at the end. The story also subtly hints to homosexual tendencies in Ripley. The way he plays a farce is well done and thus one does not know if he gay or just pretending to get what he wants as usual.

This film takes place in 1960, so it is very plausible that one man could pull such an identity rouse in quite an intertwined social environment and get away with it. In today's world, this would not be so with the Internet and other incestuous circles within many social/professional/academic environments.

The movie was well cast. All actors did first-rate job with their roles, but sadly as in many of the films I've reviewed in the past few month, the female cast members, in this case Blanchett and Paltrow are little more than background added for affect. Like Basset in "The Score", Berry in "Swordfish", and Davis in "Arlington Road", they are merely ornamental and one could argue that their characters could have just been an alluded to in the script.

The ending is a bit ambiguous and leaves an opening for a sequel, as there were a series of Mr. Ripley books. I believe however, the ending was orchestrated this way so that the viewer could draw their own conclusion about what happens.

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: B-

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:

A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV

The Talented Czarina


Order from Amazon

Internet Movie Database Listing


main page ATTRITION feedback