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The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
This is a truly great film. It sweeps you into another world without you even knowing it. And this other world is so beguiling and beautiful, and brimming with such elegant treachery, you wonder if it can be true.
Luckily, in a way, it is not. It's the fictional invention of Patricia Highsmith, most famous until now for the book behind the Hitchcock movie, "Strangers on a Train." Like that movie (also utterly gripping and deceptive), this one has characters rather like you or me, or an idealized you or me (we can't all live on the coast of Italy). And someone among us is secretly sick and devious. But a first note--and this is to the lovers of other Ripley movies--Matt Damon's Ripley isn't a faithful depiction of HIghsmith's. He's less gleefully awful. And more troubled on the inside. Maybe he shouldn't have been a "Ripley" at all, but you need to think of this as a creative, and different, version of the many other Ripley characterizaions.
And by the way, this isn't a crime film. You could be just as absorbed by the plot without any murderous edges. Director Anthony Minghella goes all out with archetypally vivid, perfect, wish-you-were-there scenes and sets. An outdoor jazz club in San Remo, open courtyards of Venice, a little village perched on rocks over the Mediterranean. The music is astonishing--mostly post-war American jazz, which one older character calls "insolent noise" though we know better, but also piano quartet, opera, and choral music. The light, the fluid camera (astonishing stuff), and the whole changing mise-en-scene as the movie plummets from pure joy to anger and disbelief and personal, wrenching despair.
Then there are the three actors who make their characters fully complex and fleshed out, with contradictions and nuances. And if Gwyneth Paltrow's fresh idealizing innocence and Jude Law's pretty boy enthusiasms and airy selfishness are extraordinary, surely Matt Damon's interloping and bewildering cleverness takes the cake. He's so convincing you shake your head. The fact he didn't win an Oscar for this is surprising (he didn't even get nominated), but the performance is still there to enjoy. Law (who did get nominated) is also a joy to watch, a kind of idealized male most women would quickly give their right arm to be with.
All three are their best here. Equally amazing are the two secondary actors with huge roles, Cate Blanchett as a charming and perplexed young traveller and Philip Seymour Hoffman as an annoying but ultimately perceptive "ugly American." The five of them fit their roles together like fingers in two clenched hands. When things happen you think, yes, of course, how terrible, how perfect, even if it is, as Andrew Sarris wrote at the time, "wall to wall amorality."
Minghella, before his premature death, talked about how difficult this film was to make because of its uncompromising locations. Venice, in particular, was hell to get permission to film in, with all the open spaces he had to clear of tourists and residents, and he implied he wouldn't do it again. You get the feeling this is an exceptional film this way top to bottom. That no corners were cut, where the actors gave it something above and beyond. And where they had terrific material to start with. Minghella himself adapted Highsmith's book into a screenplay. Or I should say books--Mr. Ripley is a character in five novels, though the first is the main source here.
Is it flawless? Who's to say. Others think not--mostly because they envision Ripley differently. But don't be stuck with what the books, or earlier movies, suggest. Also, the relationship between Blanchett's insecure woman and Damon's slippery self isn't quite right, perhaps, and Hoffman's role is too spectacular to be so brief, in a way. You do also wonder at the ultimate ending, if there is enough probability to the father's conclusion, so willing to put it all, bitterly, in the past. Maybe. These are quibbles on a journey that is really engrossing and a pleasure. Let it suck you in and you'll be completely happy you're there, even through the slowest , beautiful parts.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) works in a music hall and wishes, so, so much, that he was rich. He did attend an Ivy league school but, as a scholarship student, he was never in the limelight. A chance encounter with Mr. Greenleaf, a wealthy gentleman, results in a European vacation for Tom. This is because Mr. Greenleaf is hoping young Mr. Ripley can persuade his ex-patriot son, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) and his beautiful girlfriend, Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) to return to the United States. But, once there, Tom gets caught up in joining Dickie and company in their "high life" existence, for Dickie assumes that Tom is a rich classmate he just never really knew. Only one friend (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) suspects that Mr. Ripley is not who he seems. Things get even more complicated when a boat trip taken by Dickie and Tom goes tragically awry. Will Tom's insatiable wealth-envy destroy the lives of those around him? This is a first-rate film, no matter what others have written about it. It has a sensational plot, a wonderful cast, and is gloriously lovely to look at, with its exotic locales and great costumes. As the principal cast member, Damon is excellently subdued in a most difficult and complicated role. Law, Paltrow, Hoffman, and all of the lesser cast members are great, also. Then, too, the direction is energetic and tantalizing, giving full fruition to the ingeniously sinister plot. In summary, don't skip this one, if you care about classic suspense films. Many a viewer will find it a great, great watch.
`The Mysterious Yearning Secretive Sad Lonely Troubled Confused Loving
Musical Gifted Intelligent Beautiful Tender Sensitive Haunted Passionate
Talented Mr. Ripley' is too good a movie to explain why its so good.
Basically, the feel is fantastic. The ambience and violence subtly
in the silence of its emotions is enigmatic. This movie captures the
of the original novel and every scene in the film justifies its
The screenplay, direction, the cast and location are most appropriate and do full justification to the story. Matt Damon excels in the role of Tom and is able to portray the emotions that Tom goes through in adverse situations extremely well. The adoration of Dickie turning into the desire to be exactly like Dickie, the anger and hurt caused by Dickie's indifference and rejection, the tumult after the realization of his actions, the panic on being discovered by Freddie and Marge, the immediate recovery from panic into the grim resolve to nip the trouble in the bud, the acceptance of the unfortunate but necessary elimination of Peter, everything has been enacted out by Matt Damon beautifully and his is a truly outstanding performance, worthy of the Oscar.
This film is true to the portrayal of Ripley's mind at work. The depiction of the frustrations of being a real nobody in a world which demands lot more than it can give forces people to try to become a fake somebody is brilliantly exhibited in each scene. The human mind is a labyrinth of pleasure and pain and it rationalizes each act of aggression with justifications created and accepted by the mind itself. Even the sense of success and failure in life is controlled by the mind and the illusion is sometimes too great to overcome.
This movie provoked me into reading Patricia Highsmith's book and the later Ripley novels to track the growth of the central character. I have yet to read "Ripley Underwater" though.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Possible spoiler at the tail end of my comments.
Did you ever see that episode of Frasier where he lies to his date and it goes from bad to worse and then he really starts lying to save the situation but it only makes it worse then ....
I hate stories that rely on this tactic to explain behaviour, build suspense or otherwise tell a story. This movie heavily uses the spiraling lie tactic. The movie is very slow to start, has fabulous scenery, good acting and great cinematography. The spiraling lies and an improbable story full of holes left me very disappointed.
I did love the ending. On the stern of the ship after Tom has kissed Meredith (Cate Blanchett), who does she look at and smile to just before the scene ends? That and the closet lurker really left me thinking about the possibilities.
I'm convinced that when you watch this movie you either going to absolutely love it or truly despise it. The Talented Mr. Ripley opens to a group of black lines running up and down the screen, much like the beginning of Psycho, and continues on the same level as the classic all the way throughout the film. Matt Damon gives a chilling performance as Tom Ripley, a 1950's sociopath with a love for the piano. While borrowing a Princeton jacket from someone to tickle the ivories, Tom runs into Mr. Greenleaf who mistakes Tom for a Princeton graduate, therefore associating him with his playboy son, Dickie, played perfectly by Jude Law. Mr. Greenleaf offers Tom $1,000 to go to Italy and bring back his spoiled brat. Being nothing but a poor boy, Tom does not correct the man on his assumption and gladly takes the trip and money. While in Italy, Tom meets up with Dickie and his betrothed Margie, Gwyneth Paltrow, convincing them, as he had done with Mr. Greenleaf, that he knew Dickie from college. Dickie and Tom strike up an instant friendship, and perhaps more, making each the brother the other never had. As the story progresses, it does not turn into a typical slash and gash flick, but a slower-paced, tense psychological thriller, putting you directly into the mind of a truly disturbed man, and in doing so, making you actually root for the bad guy. Tom Ripley is the obvious villain, but you just cannot help but like him. Making Tom so enjoyable is his complexity, and the disgust you feel for the other characters. Tom is confused man with motives that do not depend on revenge or hatred, but love. When Tom meets his socialite companions, he believes they actually care him. Margie puts out an `I'll be your best friend' demeanor while Dickie confuses Tom, who is already flustered by his sexuality, into believing he loves him. Dickie is a spoiled, rude, angry, adulterer, his girlfriend is an overbearing back-stabber, his best friend, is almost as bad as Dickie himself, and then there's Meredith, another pampered, egocentric rich girl. With a group of `innocent' victims like this, it is no wonder that Tom becomes the most amicable. Anthony Minghella combines lush landscape, spine-tingling music, and deliberate pacing to create a chilling classic. True-to-life characters, exotic locations, a conceivable story, and the surprise of homosexual overtones, we are given a film that will, no doubt, go down in cinematic history as a landmark masterpiece. Every performance is right on the money. Matt Damon has that boy-next-door look that really scares you into thinking that anyone could be a psychotic murderer. Where many actors would overdo Ripley by giving him evil grins or wide eyes around every corner, Matt Damon underplays this and makes Tom frighteningly realistic. Along with him, the supporting actors are excellent. Jude Law manages to pull off an American accent to perfection and turns Dickie Greenleaf from a self-centered rich boy into a hated bastard. Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchet are also wonderful in their contrasting female leads, Philip Seymour Hoffman pulls off another great performance as Freddie, Dickie's counter spoiled-brat, and Jack Davenport is incredible as Peter, the only character that is actually ultimately good-natured. Sensational direction, superb casting, and a tight-locked script make The Talented Mr. Ripley one of the 10 Best films of the year. A+! A chilling good time!
The book is great. It's one of my favorite books ever. The film, on the
other hand, is amazingly insipid and bad! When I heard Damon would play
Ripley, I knew this production was doomed. But I didn't expect it to be this
bad. The actors go around and act very showy. Except for Law (and even he is
guilty of some showy acting), all the actors here are near amateurish.
Speaking Italian and moving one's arms or hair about shouldn't be considered
as acting. Damon is miscast. He's way too stiff for a character that's
supposed to be a chameleon. Paltrow is forgettable and Hoffman plays yet
another effeminate slimy character. Talk about typecasting.
What's really unforgivable about the script (written by the overrated director) is that it completely forgoes every subtle details from the book and comes up with many of its own, and none of them work! The addition of the Jazz music stuff is totally WRONG! I guess Minghella's idea of Italy in the late 50s, early 60s is clouded with images of Chet Baker roaming the Italian countryside and spreading amore. Yep, Minghella is a true visionary. The film is so bleeding obvious. That silly scene when Ripley drives through the narrow street full of mirrors. Very laughable. Yes, we get the point!!! Every point or detail comes across a mile away, so much so that the film might give the audience the false impression that they have psychic powers. We know, for example, that the Blanchett character, introduced at the beginning of the movie, will return later on only complicate things. And the soundtrack, at times, is totally inappropriate. Whimsical when it shouldn't be. The film goes on for too long and in all sorts of pointless directions. There are too many boring characters populating the landscape (many that weren't in the book). This film is bad! Really bad!
Apparently, Minghella's son told his father that the Ripley novel was his favorite. Mr. Minghella then proceeded to direct it as a favor of sorts to his son. Well, the director did achieve what he set out to do: Talented Mr. Ripley, with its Hitchcock aspirations, is a film strictly made for 12 year olds!
Pretty People in Front of Pretty Pictures Highlight this Rather Tepid
and Somewhat Lame Class Warfare Study that Seems More Concerned with
Photography than Psychology. Matt Damon is a Bland, Supposedly Talented
but Mostly Lucky, Mr. Ripley that is Neither Engaging or that
Jude Law Comes Off Better and Philip Seymour Hoffman is Riveting in Another Show Stealing Supporting Performance. With All the Talent Included in this Film it Ends Up being Average at Best and a Big Disappointment at Worst. Gwyneth Paltrow is OK but Unremarkable and Cate Blanchett is Virtually Wasted as a Befuddled Onlooker.
Overall, it is Worth a Watch for All that Eye Candy but the Story is Jagged and Jumps Here and There Without Much Flare. Individual Scenes are Impressive but the Total Work Never Comes Together as Much More than a Slick and Glossy Travelogue Masquerading as a Thriller. It does Manage a View Inspired Turns but is Shallow where it Needs Some Deep Analysis of the Titular Character.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I never seem to have gotten any attachment to this story at all.
All of the characters seemed so contrived, so artificial, that I could never suspend my disbelief for a moment. It's amazing that someone as talented as Mr. Ripley couldn't manage to make a place for himself in the world. He had to be a parasite. Why? And then there's Dickie and his girlfriend. Two remarkably beautiful people living in absolute paradise, yet with no visible means of support. But that doesn't stop Dickie form buying a beautiful sailboat, living in a stunning villa on the coast of Italy, and living it up to the fullest every minute. Yeah, like so many other folks I know.
But if Dickie's dad was so desperate to have him come back home, why didn't he just cut off his money? Wouldn't that have been a lot easier than sending some stranger out to collect him? And so when the really peculiar friendship between Tom and Dickie wears thin, the only recourse is to murder Dickie? Odd. And only one of numerous non-sequitors in the show.
I found myself not caring about any of the characters or what they were planning or doing. I couldn't relate to any of them on any level, nor could I believe they were anything but really obnoxious caricatures.
Excellent movie wherein Italy, the 1950's and jazz almost become their
own characters. Top notch cast and intriguing storyline. Here Matt
Damon plays Tom Ripley, a charming mimic and social-climbing
psychopath, who is sent to Italy to return a wealthy playboy (Jude Law)
home to his father. Tom slowly becomes obsessed with the lifestyle and
his new friend however and events take a deadly turn on a nice calm day
out in a rowboat.
Every time I see this movie Matt Damon's acting skills impress me more (as does that neon green speedo.) I also always notice some new clue that I'd missed. Should mention (although its obvious) how great Phillip Seymour Hoffman is. Brilliant movie 11.13(3)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So much to love about this movie. From the beautiful locations to the
totally accurate glimpse of WASP society, ending finally on just how
frightening a bland smile and obsequious nature can be, this film has
it all. Great acting by Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Matt Damon.
But the best role of all, in my opinion, is the small supporting role played masterfully by Philip Seymour Hoffman. The way he played his character, Freddie Miles, is perfect-- a condescending, jaded, supercilious preppy who has seen (and probably) done it all. Freddie is supremely bored, cynical, and has a real mean streak. When he focuses his golden laser beam of ridicule onto Tom Ripley (Damon), you realize right away (as does Ripley) that the jig is, if not up, then threatened. I squirmed with delicious discomfort whenever Freddie taunts Ripley--my favorite being "Tommy, Tommy, Tommy, How's the peeping?" and of course the best line of all, "I think I'm SAYING it". Superb.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was an absolute genius and never overplayed or hit a false acting note in anything I've ever seen him in. I don't usually feel anything when a celebrity dies more than "Oh, that's too bad/weird/expected." When I learned of his death, however, it actually hurt inside. All that great acting we'll never see again.
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