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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.
Unfortunately, this movie lacks any subtlety in handling its main character. While in the book (and even in the French 1960-version) Ripley is the great enigma of 'emptiness', the 'man without character' and, therefore, one of the most interesting criminals in literature history (a more satiric version, perhaps, of Camus's "Stranger"), the character that offer us Minghella and the (miscast) Matt Damon is a simple immature, over-timid homosexual, who would be a nice guy if he was 'identical' with himself. "If you feel something, be consequent with it; if not, you will cause harm to others and to yourself" - that seems to be the flat morality of this in other aspects still brilliant movie. Brilliant, because it shows a BEAUTIFUL camera work and is able to preserve enough thrilling moments from Highsmith's novel to keep us 'breathless', sometimes. Nevertheless, I found the very handsome and charismatic Jude Law the much more 'unsettling' character than Matt Damon's Ripley, HE really has a indifference and coldness that is as 'profoundly superficial' as I expected (in vain) Matt Damon to be. In this respect, the cast is of course better than in the French movie where Alain Delon gives a stunning performance but without convincing that he aspires to be the OTHER, aspect that becomes completely clear under this constellation. - 5 out of 10.
*** 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.
This film has all the attributes of a "good" Hollywood movie: nice scenery,
many slow scenes, better than poor acting etc. etc. Oh yeah, and the
homosexuality theme, of course. After watching it for 30 minutes I realized
I knew the story. Yes, it was Purple Noon, an old (1960) movie that I
watched and greatly enjoyed a few years back. Halfway through the movie
(TMR) I started to fast forward. The movie is trying to be sophisticated but
ends up being dead boring.
I haven't read the original novel so I don't know which of the two movies is closer to the original. It doesn't matter, anyway. The final scene of Purple Noon (as well as the entire film) was brilliant, the one in TMR was pathetic.
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 have seen reviews of this film and people give it 5/10 and 3/10. It is
just because they couldn't understand the film. I, myself found it
intriguing and my eyes were glued the the screen. The story is amazing, the
direction is fabulous and the acting is excellent. The story kept my ass
glued to my seat the whole time, with no intention of getting
In short, The Talented Mr. Ripley is the most intelligent thriller of 1999.
Matt Damon turns in one of the most effective performances I've ever seen in recent memories. He trashes his golden boy image to play a psycho, so creepy it will make your skin crawl. Every person in Hollywood after seeing this film must be scared of him. Story involves Matt Damon staring as a poor working class who borrows a Yale or was it Harvard letter jacket to play the piano at a party for some rich snobs. After it is over he finds himself being asked to go to Italy to retrieve a millionaire's son (Jude Law). Upon arrival in Italy, Damon becomes so wrapped up in the rich life style, that he kills for it. Special attention must also be payed to Law for effectively stealing every single scene he is in, even though the cast includes two Oscar winners and one Oscar nominee. And then there is the beautiful cinematography, and the brilliant music score, and the terrific costumes and locations that makes us feel like we're back in Italy in the 50's. And then there is of course the brillant direction and script. What a terrific film. My favorite film of 1999 and one of my favorite films of all time. A perfect 10 for 10. Go see this film right away.
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