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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Those of you who haven't read the book should really do so before
watching the film.
How can anybody not have gotten around to reading these books yet? However, I digress.
Why wasn't I bowled over by this? Simple answer. Tom Ripley may have bisexual leanings but he's not hysterical. The key turning point in the book is a premeditated murder but this adaptation portrays it as a crime of passion. The truly chilling aspect of his character in Highsmith's novel is the ease with which he plans and executes this murder, presumably his first.
This threw me completely. I didn't expect the film to be able to get things like Tom's poor opinion of Dickie's Italian but I thought getting the motive right would have been possible.
But for the changes to Tom's character I though the film was actually quite good. Philip Seymour Hoffman was superb as Freddie Miles. The opening sequence was a bravura piece of film-making, expertly edited by Walter Murch. The potentially confusing plot and web of coincidences was handled quite well.
But after the murder I just kept on thinking of how off the mark the film was.
I acknowledge that this was a very good film, with superior acting throughout. And I normally like to view such films three and four times, both to pick up what I might have missed the first time, and to savor again that which I enjoyed in the first viewing. But I confess that once was enough for me on this one -- it made me too uncomfortable to contemplate a second time. Of course, this is probably a testimonial to how good a movie it is, and I'll throw in the towel and concede the point--[there may be a child in my neighborhood who is exceptionally fine at pulling the wings off of living butterflies] -- but I don't ever want to watch it, and I don't want to see this movie ever again.
The Talented Mr. Ripley tells the story of the often-charismatic Tom Ripley
(Matt Damon), whose talents of impersonation, imitation and forgery combine
with self-hatred, and tempt him with the possibility of adopting a
Set in New York in the 1950s, the story introduces "the talented Mr. Ripley" as a modest young man who was hired to play the piano at an exclusive party. A wealthy shipbuilder mistakes him for an old classmate of his son and Princeton graduate, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). Worried and angered by his playboy son's lifestyle of wealth, freedom and diversion in the paradisiacal southern Italy, he urges Tom (and pays him) to travel to Italy and persuade Dickie to return home. Impressed by his own ability to fool the stranger, the talented Mr. Ripley travels to Italy and embarks on a risky journey of persuasion.
The beautiful landscapes (of Venice, Tuscany, the Gulf of Naples, and southern Sicily, among other locations); the friendly girlfriend, Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow); and the enviable popularity of the handsome Dickie (as with his "bon vivant" friend Freddie, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) overwhelm Tom and amuse the viewer. Motivated by a dangerously potent and well-repressed desire to possess the very lifestyle Dickie personifies (a desire which is subtly and shyly represented with scattered innuendoes of homosexuality), Tom realizes that being with Dickie is not as promising a reward as becoming Dickie. Parting from the overly simplistic premise and main character's motto, "it's better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody", The Talented Mr. Ripley focuses more on its main character's abilities than on his need for a different identity; a choice which does not allow for a fuller development of this potentially intriguing character.
Otherwise, the film successfully transmits the lifestyle Tom longs for, as a result of the better-defined character of Dickie, and of the desirability the actor Jude Law effectively projects.
Patricia Highsmith was fortunate to have Alfred Hitchcock adapt her
"Strangers on a Train" for the screen--and alas, she would have been equally
fortunate had Hitchcock tackled "The Talented Mr. Ripley". He would have
made more sense of the proceedings--and given it the kind of pace that would
have heightened the suspense.
But that's not to say that the film is a failure--not by any means. There are two fascinating central performances by Jude Law and Matt Damon. Unfortunately, there is a highly unsatisfactory performance by a miscast Gwyneth Paltrow. But that is not much of a flaw in this case because the film revolves entirely about the behavior of Damon and Law. It is their relationship with its homoerotic overtones that supplies the main interest and keeps the film from lagging before it reaches a rather unsatisfactory ending.
The Italian locations are breathtaking in color. All in all, an interesting film but it needed that Hitchcock touch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Some are loved by gods, others hated. Of those who inspire hatred of gods, some manage to live with it." Minghella is a great director. He made Damon play that creepy Ripley chap so convincingly, his craving so strongly portrayed, I could hardly believe it, remembering Damon's disastrous performance as the Good Will Hunting. He managed to make Paltrow look just a little bit overdone, which is a remarkable achievement. Much has been made of Jude Law's performance (oscar included), and though I really failed to see anything noteworthy, he was alright.
Hoffman is brilliant as Freddy. Italian footage is spectacular. Camera is excellent.
Yet... half an hour before the end I hated the film so intensely, I was almost surprised to find myself hating it even more in the 30 minutes that followed.
Why? It is abominably slow. And all the passion is spent on painting the psychological background for the murder in the first part of the film, and none is left even to try to make it convincing or just plain logical. Halfway into the movie you become absolutely sure that Ripley will kill Dickie, yet when he finally does it, you can't believe it. Ripley escapes, each time by a margin narrowing so rapidly as to become negative by the end.
If you add up all the various aspects of this film, it should have been
terrific. It had a hot and talented young cast, all of whom gave good to
great performances. It had wonderful locations, costumes, props and music.
It had an intriguing plot. And yet by the end all I felt was
This was a case of a director who couldn't induce the full potential out of his various resources. Anthony Minghella does a fine job on the cinematography and choice of beautiful locations in Italy, but his crafting of the story left it predictable and flaccid. This was supposed to be both a character study and a thriller. It was inadequate on both counts.
In a well made character study the viewer will come to understand the motivations of the characters. This film never delivers in this regard. The only character that was well developed was Dickie (Jude Law). Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a mystery, just a hanger on. Meredith (Cate Blanchett) was nothing more than a plot device. But the biggest reason it came up short was because the motivation of Ripley (Matt Damon) was left too ambiguous. Was Ripley a cunning con man orchestrating a grand caper, an inept interloper who bungled his way through a propitious opportunity, a victim of circumstances, an unrequited gay lover who committed a crime of passion and then needed to cover his trail? Take your pick. Minghella doesn't tell the story in a way that makes this clear.
As a thriller, it lacked surprise. Every murder was telegraphed. The private investigator gives Ripley a pass at the end, obviating the need for Ripley to provide some clever explanation for all the inconsistencies. There was not a single twist in the entire film. It had all the intrigue of playing open handed bridge.
For all the raves I've read about Matt Damon's performance, I found it rather uneven. Sometimes he came across as a clever mastermind and at others a wounded puppy. It seemed like he wasn't really sure how to play the character. Again, I put the responsibility for this on Minghella. I'd call it a generally good performance of a difficult character, but not even close to his dynamism in Good Will Hunting'.
This was a shining moment for Jude Law who gave a career performance as Dickie. He basically stole the show out from under Damon's nose. He endowed his character with exuberance, and a cavalier live-for-today attitude that made him charismatic despite his callousness and irresponsibility. I enjoyed his performance in the unheralded Music From Another Room' but this one was even better. If he keeps improving like this, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
I rated this film a 6/10 on the strength of Law's performance and the cinematography. The telling of the story fell flat and robbed this film of its real potential.
Okay, I have already reviewed this film once, but I felt it necassary to add additional comments after watching it on video. Unlike American Beauty which didn't play up as well on a TV screen, this remains just as creepy and effective. As I said before it is very well acted by all involved, especailly Matt Damon and Jude Law. There is one thing that puzzles me though. Why the heck didn't Damon get an Academy Award Nomination for his brillant performance, same thing applies to the brillant direction. And I still can't believe people are still giving this film low marks like 1-5 and saying the direction is awful. Everything about this film is professional. It's score is very effective, the cinematography is beautiful and easy on the eyes. The characterizations are rich and very well done. The costumes are terrific and the ending is a shocker. Even the opening title sequence is brillant. This is my favorite film of 1999 and one of my favorites of all time. I just can not stress enough how good this film is.
I'm still left with some disappointment in this movie. Yes, Matt Damon did
the most challenging role of his career so far, and he was convincing, but
the plot itself left more to be desired. Why go so far as to kill all of
these people? What started off as something that reminded me of the
"The Count of Monte Cristo" ended up being one gory murder after another.
one point, I really thought I would vomit right there in the theatre.
The ending was the worst of all. It reminded me a lot of "Crime & Punishment," except Tom just keeps killing. It seemed so absurd, so pointless.
Yet, I can't down the film entirely. The writing was great, and so was the acting by all. The cinematography was beautifully shot, and I enjoyed the '50s attire.
But, it still reminds of that old cough medicine that promises to be great-tasting, yet it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
This movie had some of the best acting I have seen all year (except Gwyneth who is at best an entertaining actress, but not a Best actress). The story is slow, but it keeps you interested because you keep waiting to see what Damon does next, and if he will get caught. However, after 2 1/2 hours it just ends!!! It claimed to be a Hitchcock like mystery, and it was doing a heck of a job as a slow character study, but there is not payoff for the mystery itself. You can assume many things, but all of the classics at least let you know what happened to the character, no matter how twisted he or she was. This just ends. Very, very frustrating, and that let down is what you walk out with.
I, too, cannot understand what the critics and others saw in this movie. I
found it too long, too drawn out and overwhelmingly dull. Throughout, I
waited for some climactic scene, but there was none. The only saving grace
was the beautiful cinematic shots of Italy.
Save your money and use it for something else.
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