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Duality -- the ability to be one person in a certain situation, and
in another -- is the underlying and pervading theme of "The Talented Mr.
Ripley." It is a theme that sparks the central conflict of the picture,
that influences each of the main character's decisions and actions. Each
character in the film is either pretending to be something else, or
directly to a superficial identity. The film unravels each of the
character's motivations for doing so, and in so doing strips away the
of reality we construct for ourselves. Characters either uncover the
explicit duality of their lives (Cate Blanchette's willingness to admit
she travels under another name), or have it uncovered for them (Tom
When each character is laid bare, when each character is most fully
themselves, when each character stops acting and pretending, they are
The film presents a main character who does his best to pursue another life -- but he cannot ultimately follow through with it. We are trapped by who we are, aren't we? Gwyneth tries to become Dickie's ideal woman, to avoid asking him to settle down, but she cannot -- she wants the home and the family. This is her undoing -- she weeps in the film, "I must have pressured him". Dickie can't escape the fact that he loves the nightlife -- that he strays, that his attention only lasts as long as the diversion. He says he will marry Gwyneth, but we know that his eye can never stop roaming. This is his undoing. Dickie's pal -- superficially polite, while snide and arrogant at the same time -- is much smarter than he appears, which leads to his undoing as well. When each of the characters lets their guard down and becomes who they are, it destroys them. Each of the characters has a tragic flaw that they try to ignore, or play to, a flaw which undoes the perfect lives they all pursue.
The ironic twist is that Tom Ripley is the catalyst for all of this -- yet, his tragic flaw is that he has no flaw. While each of the main characters has an identity they are running from, Ripley HAS no identity to speak of. He starts out pretending, and he pretends through the entire film. Who IS Tom Ripley? Even Tom himself wants to know. One would think that this would enable him to become the perfect actor -- when you paint on a blank canvas, one would think you can paint anything. But even Tom, blank as he is, distills down to someone -- even if it is a blank canvas, a "real nobody." And it is not only himself he is unsure of -- it is the entire world around him. Among his first lines in the film is a line uttered while listening to a jazz record -- he mumbles to himself, "Can't tell if it's a woman or a man." It is this uncertainty that informs the world he sees, and how he relates to it. Is Tom gay or straight? Is he evil or good? Even Tom doesn't know.
The film points out that we cannot run from our own darker half. We are all tempted to become someone else -- anyone who has been made fun of in school, who has longed for the life of the rich and famous, can identify with this The enemy is not without, it is within. It is this same duality which haunted and tormented so many of Hitchock's characters, most notably (but not exclusively) Norman Bates in "Psycho." "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is a worthy heir to that film classic in its ability to get the audience to sympathize and empathize with Tom. We feel his love for Dickie Greenleaf -- we feel his frustration at being shut out of his life -- we feel the awkwardness of being trapped in a situation that was never intended. As we watched Marion Crane's car pause in the swamp and waited breathlessly, perversely hoping it would sink and allow Norman's mother to get away with murder, so too we watch Tom Ripley descend into darkness, and when the cops arrive at his hotel, we wait breathlessly with Tom, hoping he will get away.
Duality is present within us all... and while we are taught "to thine own self be true," in this film it is only when we are true to ourselves, that true pain comes.
The first half of this movie was somewhat interesting. You sit and wait for something, anything, interesting to happen and this movie does not fulfill any expectations you may have. It is a slow-moving and dull 2 and 1/2 hours of waiting for the big bang. The beginning part was interesting...we delve into the life of Tom Ripley, a man who is so unsatisfied with being simply ordinary that he takes on a job that will offer him the chance of adventure. Matt Damon is good in the role as Tom. But we can never learn why he is the way he is or why the ending offered no sense of closure. Gwyneth Paltrow is okay as Marge but spends the last half of the movie in hysterics. Jude Law did a fine job as Dickie Greenleaf but that was in the first half of the movie (the better half). Overall, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" was a disappointment. Expecting thrills and a fast-paced film, what was seen was an overdrawn and dull film. Don't pay the $9. Wait until it comes on cable if you must see it.
Like the recent film "The Limey", "The Talented Mr. Ripley" took a good bit of time to digest and reflect on. Walking out of the theater with my Italian comrade Americus, I said right off the back, "I did not like it". But after a few days of taking it in, my original opinion is half-right. After a fascinating first half, the film loses steam for me until the last ten minutes. Regardless "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is a cerebral psychological tale, well executed and unlike most cookie cutter films cranked out by Hollywood today (with the possible exception of this year). It also claims an unbelievable performance by Jude Law, whose stock should sky rocket after this, and of course the beautiful landscape of my people, Italy. It is a gorgeous picture to the human eye.
"Ripley" is adapted from the novel by Patricia Highsmith, which first received film treatment in the 1960 French-Italian film, "Purple Noon". It is the late 1950's and Tom Ripley (Matt Damon taking a risk unlike his buddy Ben Affleck), is a young man with no clout or fortune. He is asked by shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) to go to Italy and bring back his son, Dickie (Jude Law), which Tom lies about knowing from Princeton. Once in Italy, Tom starts to soak up the ambiance of the rich and famous and attempts to take on the role of the upper crust. He works his way into the life of Dickie and his fiancee Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow). But Tom's charade is starting to bore Dickie and is being question by those around him, and eventually tragedy strikes Dickie. Tom now take the opportunity to dig in deeper by passing himself off as Dickie to the point where there is no return back to ordinary Tom.
Director Anthony Minghella of the overrated and big yawn "The English Patient" strikes a chord this time around and creates some suspenseful moments and wonderful sexual ambivalence that rings so true in life as we know it, but may not want to admit. Some of his scenes are astonishing including the wonderful scene between Tom and Dickie in the bathroom, while Dickie is bathing. But this film belongs to Jude Law who sets the screen on fire in every scene. You can see his mind working a mile a minute and are never quite sure what he is thinking all the time. It is one of this year's best performances and deserves an Oscar nomination for supporting actor. Unfortunately Law exits the 2nd half of the picture, which then falls entirely on Matt Damon's shoulder. Without the interesting bond between Dickie and Tom, what is left in the second half of this film is a not so interesting murder mystery that only redeems itself in the last few minutes of the reel. Damon captures the shallowness and manipulative side of the character, and the desire to climb the social ladder, but what is missing is the sheer desperation that makes this character so tragic. Some of the other actors here do some very good work including Jack Davenport as Peter who falls for Tom, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dickie's obnoxious and creepy friend. The female roles are not as fully realized as their male counterparts and Paltrow and Blanchett probably signed on for the scenery. There is really nothing special about their performances. Jude Law is the one that shines here and Damon must be given credit for tackling a very difficult role.
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" is not for your average movie audience who needs to be spoon-feed everything. This is a highly intelligent and visually beautiful film that probably needs more than one viewing to really appreciate. Recommended. × × × out of 5.
Possibly -- or the closest we may get to one. The film makes some brave
choices -- first, in its decision to avoid the stark colors of black and
white which so frequently affect how we see the main protagonist (don't
believe me? See the scene where Ripley and Peter are talking about
-- Peter is clad in black, Ripley in white). Ripley is not a sociopath or
psychopath, but simply a young man, unsure of himself (one of his first
lines addresses his inability to distinguish a jazz singer by his/her
voice), his sexuality, and his place in the world. He has made a hobby out
of impersonating others. He is caught in a situation he never intended to
be in, a situation that rapidly spirals out of control.
Additionally, the choice to make Ripley homosexual is certainly a brave one, especially by modern Hollywood standards. The waters of sexual attraction were never more muddied than they are in this film -- Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow both love Jude Law, who loves neither. In the complicated relationship that develops between Paltrow and Damon, Damon is the mistress to Paltrow's wife-figure. This underscores the tension that develops between them as Damon tries to incorporate himself into Law's life (and identity). It makes for a fascinating dynamic that is never explored, since after the murder Paltrow has nothing to do except get more and more suspicious (a tough motivation to play). The presence of Cate Blanchette's character muddies waters even more -- Damon is no screaming queen, and there is a sense in which as he plays out Dickie's life he is allowed to become a virtual Jekyll and Hyde -- he is both a sophisticated, suave man about town, attracted by and to women, and a repressed, insecure, frustrated homosexual man running from his own conscience. Is he gay, or not? Is he a good kid simply drawn in to bad circumstances, or is he a murderer? By allowing this uncertainty to play itself out without a complete resolution at the end, the film dares to invite its audience to make up its own mind -- a brave standard by any measure in today's climate.
The theme of duality also pervades the film, much as it did in Hitchcock's work ("Psycho" and "Strangers on a Train" are two obvious examples). Shots are constantly framed awkwardly and intentionally -- props, buildings, even whole sides of the city mix together that don't fit. Dark and white contrast in the frame -- and each character is off-set by one another, no more so than Cate Blanchette and Gwyneth Paltrow. At one point Damon drives down a road populated with mirrors, which are often a visual clue in Hitchcock's films.
The film is finally Hitchockian in its central question -- "how far would you go to be someone else?" Anyone who was ever picked on in school -- anyone who has ever idolized the rich and famous -- can appreciate what Damon's character faces in the film. Hitchcock always peopled his films with characters with whom you could identify with -- ordinary people cast into extraordinary circumstances. The film puts a mirror up to us and asks, "how well do you know yourself?" By placing us in the position of Matt Damon's character, we are forced to ask, "while these things he commits are terrible, can you honestly say that you wouldn't/couldn't do these things if placed in the same position?" The film's ultimate question -- "how well do you know yourself?" -- is the most profound...and the one it leaves us asking.
Despite many flashes of visual style, this film misses opportunity after opportunity to be a truly Hitchcockian study of sociopathology. The scene in the lobby of the opera house, for example, directed by Hitchcock, would have been a genuine gasper. Other, more obvious gaffes: the film begins with narration, which never recurs (Where is Ripley when he is telling us this story? Why is he telling it? Why have only one line of this narration?); the skyline in the background of the opening scene is modern day. The film comes vividly to life in scenes where Ripley's buried emotions come to the fore -- in the boat, for example, or in the final scene -- but ultimately Matt Damon is not a strong enough actor to bring this fascinating character to life. Both he and Gwyneth Paltrow, in fact, seem startlingly amateurish alonside Jude Law, Cate Blanchet, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who are all superbly confident. The tendency of visual and sound effects to dominate modern movies here invades what could have been a wonderfully complex character study; instead it seems to be a film about photography and jazz.
Yes The Talented Mr Ripley is slow at times, but to me it is always absorbing and very rarely boring. The scenery is simply dazzling and really quite exotic, and the costumes and cinematography are gorgeous too. The music is superb, as is Anthony Minghella's direction. The story is very compelling with a number of interesting and well-handled scenes, while the script is both intelligent and thoughtful. The acting is excellent, Matt Damon does wonderfully in a difficult and perhaps controversial role, and Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Phillip Seymour Hoffmann are equally terrific. Overall, quite an excellent film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have watched this film so many times and never ever stop seeing
something new unfolding with each viewing. Everything here is spot on,
the cinematography, the mise en scene, the acting, the story....you get
the gist! If you haven't seen this film before, get on to it. You will
not be disappointed.
I noticed that a writer here asks 'Is Tom Ripley a sympathetic character?' This is an excellent question, because in many ways it points to the ambivalence the audience is positioned to feel concerning not just Tom, but all the upper class American characters. I would argue that this 'sympathy' some of us feel watching Tom is to do with class. Dickie Greenleaf's name says it all. His 'born in the money' privilege and arrogance none the less makes him 'green' (lacking in street smarts, naive) and - at times - extremely unlikeable.
When Tom climbs out of his below ground flat and climbs into the car sent for him, well, he isn't going back without a fight is he? I am not defending murder here. Merely pointing out that the genius of this narrative is just how ambivalent it is - and what a scathing comment on the capitalist system where 'climbing the ladder' (quite literally Tom does this at the beginning) means getting your hands very very dirty indeed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
the story starts out very simply ..so simple that one may even presume the movie to turn out as a lacklustre and boring movie...but as the plot thickens this movie gets very interesting ..the acting by Matt Damon is more than impressive..this is one movie in which if you get to know the spoilers before seeing ,the whole point of watching the movie would be lost..there are moments in this movie in which you would actually be rooting for Mr. Ripley that he is not found out..Gwyneth Paltrow is awesome and turns out an awe inspiring performance..and the role of Jude Law as a rich and carefree man is also very well played..all in all it is a must watch for all thriller fans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*** This comment may contain spoilers *** What an incredible movie! It
really makes you feel Ripley's attraction to Greenleaf. Jude Law just
oozes sexuality on screen while also showing you Greenleaf's heartless
and vain side. We feel the rejection and pain when Greenleaf gets bored
with Ripley. But we also feel Greenleaf's fear of how Ripley is getting
out of control. I actually felt that the Marge character was boring,
though. She seems too much like a pawn to me. She gets patted about by
all the characters.
I had one question about the final scene. When Ripley kills his lover the lover says, "You are crushing me!" I can't figure out how this was accomplished. There was no obvious weapon in the room. And I've never heard of someone being crushed to death in hand to hand combat--if he said, "you're choking me!" it would have made more sense.
Or did he mean he was getting a kick to the groin? I am surprised no one else mentioned this...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Matt Damon gives the performance of his dramatic career as a young American man sent to Europe to go and retrieve the son of a Millionaire who has gone to exile himself there. The son is played by Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow plays his girlfriend. While there, the charming Dickie Greenleaf (Law) manages to distract Ripley (Damon) from his task at hand and when Ripley becomes enchanted by the way of life there, he decides to murder Greenleaf and assume his identity. His only problem is trying to keep up with one story and sticking with it, trying to elude Greenleaf's friends and girlfriend who soon begin to smell a dead rat as well as trying to elude the police who are now hot on his trail. Cate Blanchett co-stars as an unfortunate bimbo in this Oscar worthy dramatic thriller.
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