The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
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I can't remember that last time I felt my heart jerked like this in some time. Well that is a lie, I do remember. The last time would have had to of been when I saw: Match Point. So let's get the 'if you liked/hated' bust out of the way and say if you liked Woody Allen's Match Point, I can't see why you wouldn't ultimately like this. Not that they're AT ALL the same, nor do I have some sort of expertise on the matter. I just know the rare feeling Match Point gave me is the same this movie gave me. It sets so many moods and it does it with such finesse you find yourself begging for more and more in a devilish fashion you'll catch yourself many times wondering why you're rooting for Mr. Ripley.
The movie is only 2 hours and 20 minutes or there abouts. But it feels like a lifetime. Not the sort of lifetime when you're waiting in the DMV. The sort of life time where you experience, learn, and think about through your life. Not to say this film is a learning experience. But it IS an experience and it will fill a hole in your film-going life for that thick-plot, character ran, and dark trenching void you may have. I can't think of a film that quite compares in sequence of events, twists, character development, character inclusion quite like this.
Every character is important, every event is important, and everything you think is pretty null and void. Or possibly that is just me.
It should be heavily noted that this film STARTS SLOW, as many have said and probably judged it that way. I'd say it picks up speed around the 15-20 minute mark and it roller coasters from there. And let me tell you, when it accelerates, it seriously doesn't know how to stop and personally, I never wanted it to stop. This is the sort of film where not even the most annoying person can scream at the film, because you're too tight lipped about everything going on and you'll most likely find yourself wanting Ripley to keep going. And when I say Ripley, I really mean the movie.
And the movie doesn't stop, it keeps going. Even after it's over, you will be doing a mental tango of all the information you have received and trying to sort out all the pieces. And trust me, there are pieces. If you go to watch this film to just watch a 90's flick, you're doing it wrong. You will probably find the movie a flop of just dark moments led by lies and deceit. (Which it really is). But to those who went to watch this film because we wanted to know why there was so much mixed hype about this 1999 film, we should have all noticed there were the smallest bits of puzzle pieces and the biggest amounts of twists that really made this film what it is.
I don't even like Matt Damon, I personally have a biased grudged towards the guy and his movies. But I'd have to say, it's tough to choose between his performances here and Good Will Hunting. He, along with the entire cast will tug at heart strings you never thought you had. There are the strings for romance, thrillers, and horror. These strings are the one's collecting dust and sometimes never see the light of day for a life time. It's rare to come across a film that seems to have everything and goes about it like it's nothing, like it doesn't even seem to care if you're watching or not, because it all is going to happen with or without you. It's truly it's own living, breathing, and dark entity.
Watch this film if you want a film that will bake in your brain for the days, weeks, maybe months to come. It's not to late to bring this movie back up into lunch-time conversation in the new century.
There have been some people who think Matt Damon is too colorless here. In Clement's adaptation, that might have been true, but the point here is Ripley is SUPPOSED to be a nonentity, a blank page waiting to be filled(thus lines like "I always figured it would be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody," or when Dickie Greenleaf(Jude Law) tells Ripley that with his glasses on, he looks like Clark Kent) by someone like Dickie. Ripley may have been pretending from day one(which is how he gets to meet Dickie in the first place), but there was nothing sinister about it, just a bunch of little white lies. It's not till he gets entranced by the life in Italy, and Dickie's life in particular, and then finds himself shut from it, that things happen. And Damon is excellent at going through the transformation(and it's not just the glasses, as one comment suggested, it's the hair, the clothes, and the whole attitude).
Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, probably my favorite critic today, liked the film, but he thought it would have been better if Damon and Law had switched roles. Again, if Minghella was remaking Clement's version, sure, but not this way. If you want someone to be an object of desire, you better make sure they're desirable, and Law is quite good there, along with showing the layers underneath. Gwyneth Paltrow has the tougher role, because she has to be both smart and able to be fooled, but she pulls it off, especially in the scene when she tells Tom she really knows what he is. Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman are also good in small roles, James Rebhorn is dependable, and Philip Baker Hall makes a memorable cameo.
One more thing; there have also been complaints that the first half is too long, and the ending is weak. The first half not only sets up Ripley's slowly falling in love with Dickie's life(and even Dickie), but also sets up some plot points which pay off later, so it's necessary. And when Ripley finally becomes The Talented Mr. Ripley, it's unsettling and still delivers a perverse kick. As for the ending, without giving anything away, it's the only way it could end; he goes on, but at what cost? This is terrific moviemaking.
Matt Damon played this three-dimensional character so well that I almost became a huge fan of his. Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf, whose identity Tom Ripley steals was very good as well. The movie is shot in Italy, moves at a leisurely speed and is very atmospheric. One of my all time favorite thrillers.
The main reason why The Talented Mr. Ripley works so well is that it's central characters are deep labyrinths that beg to explored and analysed. Every scene is rich with double meaning and character interactions that exist under the surface of the drama we are seeing on screen. The character of Tom Ripley is a true masterpiece of characterisation indeed. This sociopath, that would rather be "a pretend somebody than a real nobody" is a myriad of contradictions and muddled personalities. His actions are always amoral and through his lies and deception, it is obvious that he doesn't care at all for anyone around him. However, despite this; we are still able to feel for him through his tribulations. The story is told in such a way that it is difficult to feel for any of the other characters and all of our sympathies lie with the talented Tom Ripley. This puts the audience in a strange situation, as we're used to hating the antagonist and feeling for the protagonist, but this film turns that on it's head, and to great effect.
The film is helped implicitly by the fact that it's one of the most professionally made films ever to make it onto the screen. Every scene, every action, every line uttered is done with the greatest assurance and nothing at all in the film appears to be there by accident or out of place. The way that the characters interact with each other and their surroundings is always believable and we never question anything that is shown on screen. Anthony Minghella's direction is more than solid, and this is helped by the stunning photography, courtesy of 1950's Italy. Many a film has benefited from Italy's landscape, and this is one of them. This is all great, but it's the performances that put the final finishing touch on this amazing masterclass of film-making. As mentioned, the talented Mr Damon takes the lead role and completely makes it his own. He often gets coupled with his friend, Ben Afleck, when it comes to acting; but this is very unfair as Damon is one of today's brightest stars. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow make up the other two leads. I'm not the biggest fan of either of these two stars, but both, like Damon, give performances here that will always be associated with their personalities. Cate Blanchett has a small role, but the real plaudits for the smaller performances go to the brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who steals every scene he's in.
The Talented Mr. Ripley is one stunning piece of film. Ignore the people that don't consider this one of the 1990's greatest achievements; they are wrong. The film is a masterpiece of tense situations, great characterisation and professional film-making. And I refuse to hear otherwise.
Matt Damon portrays the mysterious Mr. Ripley, who, more or less, remains a mystery throughout the film. I was intrigued at how, when you first see him on screen, you are given the impression that he is nothing more than a shy, innocent, and intellectual young man who pretty much keeps to himself. However, this image is only visable for the first five minutes or so, and is virtually shattered once he accepts the offer to go to Italy in search of Mr. Greenleaf's son, Dickie. I was fascinated at how rapidly his personality altered, and suddenly I understood that he was rather odd, as he deceived Mr. Greenleaf in the first place by wearing a Princeton jacket and pretending that he knew Dickie. Now, I haven't explained this entirely, as those of you who have seen this film know, as I am not writing this to create a summary of the plot, but rather to give my comments. Basically, Mr. Greenleaf saw Ripley playing the piano at a wedding wearing a Princeton jacket, and since his son also went to Princeton, he asks Ripley if, by any chance, he knew Dickie. Of course, since Ripley never went to Princeton in the first place, he couldn't possibly have known Dickie. Despite this fact, however, Ripley says that he did know him, and that they were friends. As soon as he says this, he manages to get himself in a deep hole of trouble as Mr. Greenleaf asks him to go to Italy to try and retrieve his son, as he couldn't do it himself due to that fact that Dickie wouldn't listen to his father following a serries of arguments.
I thought that the acting was brilliant, especially that of Jude Law (Dickie) and Matt Damon. I was on the edge of my seat throughout most of the film, and I felt that all the characters were believable in their own ways. I believe this to be a splendidly clever story, which is well written and directed. I thought that the music playing during most of the film was excellent as it matched the strange, eerie atmosphere of the story beautifully.
I would like to conclude this review by saying that this is a very good movie with an unusually unpredictable ending; it's nice to see a movie that doesn't finish perfectly for a change.
Anthony Minghella, director of ENGLISH PATIENT, sets the stage in late 1950's Italy, an exotic locale which adds to the suspense. As the film progresses and it becomes more apparent there is something deeply wrong with Damon, you almost begin to root for him to get away with his malicious acts. He is so effective as the quietly psychotic Ripley because his actions do not seem planned. He just kind of takes what is not his without reason.
The beauty of Rome, Venice, and Gwyneth Paltrow tends to hide the inner turmoil going on with Damon's character and Jude Law is oblivious to it most of the time. The madness builds slowly and Law, as the target of Damon's consuming desire, realizes it too late. Law has the looks and mannerisms of a 50's matinee idol which fits perfectly within the context of the film.
Some people have said THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY is like a Hitchcock film for the 90's. I would have to agree. Damon's ability to portray a fully realized, human leach is amazing at times and the fact that I actually had some sympathy for him proves it. There are scenes of utter shock and dismay, but it is the drowning build to the inevitable murder and mayhem that grabs you.
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound formats: Dolby Digital / DTS
Whilst in Italy, a young American chancer (Matt Damon) assumes the identity of a wealthy playboy (Jude Law) with whom he's become emotionally obsessed, leading to murder and betrayal on a grand scale.
Elegant, literary thriller based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith (the subject of an earlier adaptation, PLEIN SOLEIL, in 1960), in which sociopathic anti-hero Tom Ripley (Damon) cheats, steals and murders his way to a position of huge good fortune, leaving a trail of devastation in his wake. Set against the backdrop of tourist Italy - encompassing Rome and Venice and all points in between - Anthony Minghella's film is a compelling treat from start to finish, layering detail upon detail as Damon's friendship with Law blossoms and sours, leading to an inevitable plot twist which introduces a whole new set of complications for the central characters, rendering the audience complicit in Ripley's escalating crime wave.
Damon may seem a little too young and unworldly for such a complex character, but he judges the role with great sensitivity, especially in those scenes where (overtly or otherwise) he indicates a sexual attraction to Law which goes unreciprocated (or does it?), until the characters are driven apart by jealousy, bitterness and - ultimately - violence. His fantasies shattered by harsh reality, Damon finds solace in the arms of a mutual acquaintance (Jack Davenport), the only person capable of taking Law's place in Damon's affections, only for their chance of happiness to be snatched away by a cruel trick of fate. Terrific, Oscar-caliber support by Gwyneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman (as Law's fiancée and best friend, respectively); beautiful, classy production values throughout. Followed by RIPLEY'S GAME (2002).
In short, The Talented Mr. Ripley is the most intelligent thriller of 1999.
On seeing his jacket, the party's host, Herbert Greenleaf, an affluent ship builder remarks how his estranged son was of the same class at Princeton. Reluctant and perhaps too embarrassed to deny ownership of the jacket, Tom pretends to know of Greenleaf junior, probably expecting never to cross paths with the man again. However, Mr Greenleaf has other ideas - tired of his son Dickie's (Jude Law), playboy life where he squanders his generous allowance in Italy with girlfriend Marge (played by Gwynneth Paltrow), practically throws $1,000 at Tom to travel there to bring his errant son home.
Spoilers: Barely having a chance to refuse the forthright offer. Tom soon finds himself travelling first-class to Europe on a Cunard liner having first educated himself in a crash course of jazz in order to mirror Dickie's own interests in music. However, Tom inadvertently makes an unwise error when he is approached by a rich heiress from the textile industry upon disembarkation in the form of Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchette). Enjoying the illusion of being a First Class passenger he introduces himself as the man he seeks to bring home, again not expecting to cross paths with the mystery admirer again. He thought wrong and so ensues a cloak and dagger plot of maintaining a fake acquaintance with Dickie & Marge and evading Meredith who reappears at certain tense moments in Italy - moments a little too much of a close call.
Dickie's recollections of Princeton are decidedly hazy so he takes Tom Ripley at his word when he first enthusiastically approaches him and Marge languishing on an Italian beach and enthusing about the rare coincidence. Marge invites him for lunch and soon Tom begins to covet Dickie's lifestyle and will manipulate the situation in any way he can in order to maintain and prolong their friendship - even after Dickie outgrows Tom and dismisses him as both a leech and a bore.
The movie is bursting at the scenes with tense anticipation and yet we as viewers find Dickie (although every inch the charming playboy), a leech upon his father and we route for Tom as somewhat of an impoverished, socially awkward underachiever. He has an almost childlike innocence at times yet he can think adequately on his feet when being forced into corners. He is both to be pitied and yet admired as he manipulates whilst managing to look like a hapless amateur that you want to love and protect. It's one movie where for a long time afterwards you wonder what can possibly be in store for his future long after the credits roll.
The most important scene in this film, I think, is when Tom (Matt Damon) and Meredith (Cate Blanchett) attend the opera in Rome. On stage is the duel scene from Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin'. Lenski, Onegin's closest friend, has offended Onegin who has challenged him to a duel. Lenski, the simple musician, sings the last bit of his aria and then the two men do their paces and Onegin shoots Lenski dead.
The key to Tom Ripley's enigmatic character and motivations in relation to the opera is; in the 19th century literature, in this case Pushkin, Onegin represented a type of man that was becoming extinct for various reasons, mostly cultural as a result of political disasters, the usual story. Onegin is what the Russians called a "lishny chelovek" or "superfluous man." A man with sensitivity and intelligence but doomed to have these qualities corrupted for want of a proper outlet in the society of his time. That is Tom Ripley.
The interesting thing is, Tom Ripley is also Lenski, the simple musician, the lover, the sentimentalist. So, the operatic scene in this film symbolizes the self-immolation of Tom Ripley in the form of Eugene Onegin, the superfluous man, killing Lenski, the simple and gifted musician. This suicide explains a lot in the context of what ultimately happens in this film. It explains why Ripley does what he does on a fundamental level.
Ripley has been left with no place to stand by the society of the plutocracy whose children, represented by Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), Marge, his fiancé (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Meredith the society girl from New York (Blanchett). All action stems from this fundamental twist in Ripley's psyche.
The first time I saw this movie I was flummoxed, but now, if I am right about the scene at the opera house, I think I understand what makes these characters tick, which makes the film all that more interesting.
There is some wonderful acting here too. Jude Law got all of the attention at the time of the release, and he is very good, but it is Matt Damon's astonishing performance as the geeky, pathetic Ripley that boggles the mind. Cate Blanchett turns what could have been a nothing, stereotyped part into a tour-de-force of subtle comedy and pathos, reminding me more than once of "Little" Edie Beale (Grey Gardens), the poor little rich girl with a heart of gold who can't find love because of the limitations placed upon her by the society in which she grew up. An intelligent young woman raised to be an empty-headed breeder.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is wonderfully repulsive as Dickie's old chum from Princeton, with his beady-eyed, nastiness towards the "leech" Ripley. Gwyneth Paltrow is very good as the author who loves Dickie and is the only one who cottons on to what has happened to him but no one believes her.
There is also sly satire at work here as well. Jude Law's character "Dickie" is a great fan of Charlie Bird.... "Dickie Bird" a Gilbert and Sullivan reference betokening the empty-headed fool dancing towards his doom to the tootling of some vapid jingle, "Poor little Dickie Bird....tit-willow tit-willow" etc.
Dickie is out of his depth when he encounters the deeply twisted Tom Ripley who has set out to destroy his own identity, annihilate his personality and will not hesitate to eliminate all who would stand in his way. In the end he takes his revenge before meeting his own doom by killing love.
This is a tragic film, beautifully done on all counts and though it seems to drag at times in the first half and has a deux ex machina ending to solve the complicated dilemma of closing the trap around Ripley, it is a first rate suspenser. Minghella does not have the Hitchcock touch but he's brought his own brand of haunting creepiness into this very fine film.
Technical aspects are outstanding, The music by Gabriel Yared is beautiful and the script one of the better ones I've encountered in a long time.
The second half of the film deals with Damon's character trying to get away with his scheme while other people slowly start to question who he is and what he's doing. Some people trust him; some don't. A few twists make the story even more interesting. The only facet that didn't appeal to me were the overt homosexual overtones in this film which were prevalent throughout Damon's relationships with a couple of men, although nothing sexually was ever done and even though these guys also had girlfriends. Speaking of the latter, Gwyneth Paltrow is good in here as "Marge Sherwood," someone who is ahead of the pack when it comes to uncovering the truth. Cate Blanchett is good, too, as usual, but her role was much smaller and one I'm not sure was all about.
Overall, this is intriguing drama-crime story with a lot of suspense and done so without a lot of violence. All the characters in this movie grab your attention. Combine that with good European scenery and involving storyline and you have a movie worth investigating.
I read where this film also goes under the title, "The Strange Mr. Ripley."
This was a really enjoyably film; plenty of time is spent introducing the characters and by the time of Dickie's death Tom is the more sympathetic character so it is easy for the viewer to see it as self-defence and hope he gets away with it. Even when he kills again it isn't hard to still hope he gets away with it as this victim was a frightful snob who had always looked down on Tom and people like him it is only when Marge starts to be emotionally harmed by Tom's actions that sympathy for him starts to wane. The cast does a fine job; Matt Damen is particularly good as Tom Ripley; a character who isn't naturally dynamic but can play the part when needed. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow also impress as Dickie and Marge. The story isn't rushed but nor does it drag and once Dickie has died the tension gradually rises; there is always the possibility that Tom will be exposed, either by the police or somebody who knows Dickie, and each to it looks like he could be exposed there is the feeling that people around him are in danger. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to anybody wanting a good drama set in some beautiful Italian locations.
Ripley falls in love with Dickie's life and with Dickie himself. For a while he manages to attach himself, leechlike, to the black sheep. His first advances, hinting at a game of nude bathtub chess, are rebuffed. An improbable turning point occurs when the hithertho nerdish Tom slices open the side of Dickie's head with an oar during an unlikely boat trip for two and then beats him to a lifeless pulp in the biffo that follows.
From this point, Ripley leads a double life, as himself and his victim. When rumbled by one of Dickie's old chums (Freddie/Philip Seymour Hoffman) he turns to murder again. The net seems to be closing in but Ripley keeps wriggling free.
Writer/Director Antony Minghella uses the oldest trick in the book to distract viewers from the hollowness of the plot. Just as a skillful conjuror diverts the gaze of the audience from where the trick is really happening, so Minghella disengages our critical faculties with picturesque backdrops of Rome, Venice and even Jude Law's posterior.
The cast do well enough, apart from Matt Damon who wouldn't have got a look in at a 'Queer as Folk' audition. None of the characters they play invite empathy, so the viewer scarcely cares who might live or die, and whether Ripley will get away with his literally incredible double life.
Surely the hard-boiled American private detective hired by Greenleaf Senior will unravel the tissue of lies and coincidences? Nope. Fade to unreadable titles and who cares? The stars of this film are the locations and the art direction. Without them it would be the disaster the absurd and wholly unbelievable plot deserves.
It all starts out on a rooftop in New York City. Ripley is playing the piano for some type of a cocktail party and he happens to be wearing a borrowed Princeton jacket. A wealthy gentlemen at the party notices this, and quickly recruits Ripley to track his spoiled brat son down over in Italy. His son also attended Princeton, and Ripley claims to have known him there. Ripley accepts this offer since it pays pretty well, allows him to travel, and gives him the chance to get a foot in the door with the upper class. Ripley locates the spoiled son named Dickie who is living with his girlfriend. Jude Law (American accent and all) plays Dicke, and Gwyneth Paltrow is the girlfriend. Ripley quickly befriends the couple and admits why he's there. Rather than try to convince Dickie to return to America with him, he simply joins him in run of debauchery. The good vibes between these characters don't last long, however. Ripley develops a mad obsession about Dickie that can really only lead to the kind of violent confrontation we see later on a tiny motorboat. Ripley then becomes Dickie. He has learned how to forge his signature, his mannerisms, and he is quickly developing a taste for the finer things in life.
Or course there are complications when one assumes another person's identity. Ripley keeps running into people Dickie knew well, and he has to come up with some amazing lies and schemes to keep them believing the real Dickie is still alive. If someone gets too close, Ripley has to either run away or dispose of whomever might find out his secrets. As a viewer, you might often find yourself trying to come up with a good story or lie before Ripley can to see if you're as cunning as he apparently is. The story works itself out intelligently, and by doubling back on some of the tiniest details from earlier scenes, but somehow it all works brilliantly. What kind of man is Tom Ripley? Really, he is whatever he needs to be in order to keep going. Is he intelligent? Hell yes. Is he dangerous? Hell yes. Is he gay? If he needs to be. He has a chance to bed Cate Blanchette, but seems unable to complete the deal. Or maybe he just doesn't have time. It's difficult to say.
The cast is a wonderful ensemble of some of the finest actors working today. Phillip Seymour Hoffman really stands out in a sleazy supporting role. Law is superb. Blanchette is not in enough scenes. Paltrow is good, but Damon puts them all to shame. Anthony Minghella's direction hits all the right notes. Italy looks as beautiful as you could ask it to. It's really hard to find a flaw in this one. 10 of 10 stars.
Save your money and use it for something else.
I found the pacing of the movie to be way too slow. I was bored throughout the second half and was praying that the situation would PLEASE JUST UNRAVEL! (like we all knew it ultimately would)
This feeling was exacerbated by not following through with devices developed in the beginning of the movie. For example, early on, we learn of Mr. Ripley's incredible talents; however, he ultimately only puts a sliver of them to use. Paltro's confrontation through the door was begging for him to throw his voice but Ripley lies there silently.
In the end, I found this movie to be simply ordinary and not the deserving the credit that Miramax would have you believe it to deserve.