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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the second adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel, "the talented Mr Ripley" and besides, a remake of René Clément' fabulous movie, "Plein Soleil" (1959). If Anthony Minghella's movie can't hold a candle to Clément's movie, it remains a good detective movie that contains quite numerous qualities.
First, the movie enjoys a quite outstanding performance, especially Matt Damon. He doesn't rely too much on his physique and plays his role with conviction.
The movie also enjoys a watertight and relevant screenplay, maybe a little too well-crafted that sometimes it's hard to follow the plot. Furthermore, you can blame Minghella for not dwelling enough on Dicky Greenleaf's haughty and scornful behavior, in the first hour of the movie. In the novel, this last one wants to impress and even to humiliate Tom Ripley by taking advantage of his wealthy and favored situation, but in this remake, it's not really the case. Minghella neglected this side of the screenplay. He also doesn't dwell enough on Ripley' inferiority complex.
Nevertheless, Minghella could skilfully lead the suspense until the end that you can't really consider as a happy-end because Ripley triumphs over the situation and no-one knows the truth.
A fair detective movie and a remake that for once didn't turn out to be pointless.
NB:A note about Marge Sherwood: Patricia Highsmith's hate and contempt for the character was intense in the novel (as was Ripley's);and she didn't suspect Ripley at all when the story ended.
What a shame. The story had a lot of of promise but that dwindled quickly. In the beginning we're presented Mr. Ripley, who in every aspects wishes to be something he's not. He hopes to conform himself to the lifestyle of Dickie Greenleaf, and in doing so certain grows too attached to something he can never attain. The movie plods on through many gruesome instances and has the audience waiting for the end. I assumed often that the end was near, but no, I was not that fortunate. I had to sit through more of this dull movie. If I was one to walk out of a movie I would have left after about an hour. Instead I stayed. My recommendation: go for the first hour or so, you'll catch the good parts of the movie, then run!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After the success of 'The English Patient', director Anthony Minghella
conceived of his next project as another adaptation (after Rene
Clement's 'Plein Soleil') of Patricia Highsmith's 1955 pulp novel 'The
Talented Mr. Ripley'. While Clement's version is generally excellent
and intelligently conceived, the censorship constrains of the era
rendered the film too subdued in its treatment of the homoerotic sexual
undertones of the source material to really have an impact on the
audience. Mingella's film, however, is substantially more explicit and
candourous in both its theme and content, permitting both for the
characters to be depicted in all their multifaceted and variable glory
and for a visceral degree of suspense to develop long before the bodies
even start piling up.
Concurrently a modernist exploration of film noir stressing the Byzantine plot schematics, dreamlike visuals, and behavioural factors of the genre's archetypes with delicious hyperbole and a conservative dissection of vanity and hedonism (something of a contrast with Highsmith's glorification of those things in her original novel), the film primarily looks at social status, with the work's two main characters Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf (two excellent performances from Matt Damon and Jude Law representing the higher (Dickie) and lower (Tom) levels of the social taxonomy.
By using film noir's archetypes characters whom either allow their affluence or high social status to persuade them to pursue impossible goals or whom, if poor, obsess with 'making a quick buck' , Minghella is able to both mock the vices of high society and, through investing sympathy in Ripley's character through the indifferent and intermittently cruel behaviour that Dickie directs toward him, expose both the superficiality and the manipulative and temporal nature of a high social status (along with the 'la dolce vita' lifestyle it connotes). However, this point is most effectively illustrated not through Dickie's representation of the upper classes, but through Tom Ripley's destructive pursuit of them.
From the film's opening montage of Ripley's squalid existence in the ghettos of New York, we see his burning desire to be among a higher class of people surmised brilliantly with such images as him wiping a rich man's jacket in his capacity as a lavatory attendant and his forbidden look into a recital from behind the curtain of a personal booth. Ripley is willing to do practically anything to achieve a higher status; firstly becoming acquainted with jazz (which he clearly dislikes) as a means to befriend Dickie, then demonstrating all his skills of mimicry and forging, along with revealing the intent of his meeting Dickie, to preserve that friendship, to finally killing Dickie and stealing his identity.
As matters escalate, so do Ripley's methods of preserving his wrongfully-obtained status. He murders Dickie's inquisitive friend Freddie Miles (a Seymour Hoffman performance fleetingly glimpsed though worthy of a thousand accolades), fakes Dickie's suicide, attempts to murder Dickie's former fiancée Marge Sherwood (Paltrow in one of her better roles), and, in the film's haunting dénouement, murders Peter Smith-Kingsley (Jack Davenport), the only character in the whole film who has the potential to offer Tom some sort of salvation. And as Ripley's finally descends into an incubus of guilt and regret, the film finally presents his status anxiety as hubris with the line "I always thought it would be better, to be a fake somebody... than a real nobody."
Yet these reflections are simply the eventualities of the film's exploration of it's thematic concerns; what really matters is that this is a beautifully photographed (John Seale's best work), superbly scripted, wonderfully acted, exquisitely scored (Gabriel Yared channels Bernard Herrmann with such professional austerity that one would think that Yared is Herrmann's reincarnation), and, dare I write, 'talentedly' directed. This, for me, is Minghella's magnum opus!
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.
Napoli, Roma, San Remo, Venezia: need I say more! I like Italy and I like movies about Italy... This movie is great. It has suspense, beautiful pictures of Italy and a great cast! I have seen this movie about 10 times now and still love it! Matt, Jude and Gwyneth are great. This should have been an Oscar magnet. I don't know why it wasn't noticed. Maybe because Tom and Peter are gay? What I find striking is that the movie is even better than the book! Hire, buy and see this movie, you won't regret it! Also watch out for the other Ripley movie (Game) with John Malokovich. It has the same suspense and good (but different) cast!
Tom Ripley is a piano tuner and toilet attendant who borrows a
Princeton blazer to play at a wedding and finds himself assuming the
role of an old friend of the Greenleafs' son. Working the way into
their confidence, Tom is offered payment to go to Italy and bring the
son (Dickie) back home to the US. Arriving in Italy, Tom continues the
performance and tricks his way into the friendship of Dickie and his
girlfriend Marge. However, as he spends more time with Dickie he starts
to fall in love with him and envy what he has, leading him to begin to
play Dickie as a role as well.
It has been years since the critical loving over this film occurred and the awards were doled out but yet I had not seen it yet. I watched it last year until the video cut out after an hour so this time I just made sure and watch it as it was on TV. The plot sounds quite simple and it made me wonder how it would fill the running time but I was happy to see it did it by being patient and building the characters while also having enough going on to keep audience attention. The story is, as the title says, about Tom Ripley and it uses the basic tale to run threads about envy, social climbing, sexual desire, personality etc all through the film, making each one of them as interesting as the actual narrative itself. This collection of ideas and thought-provoking material works very well and the film lingers as a result of them. The direction is simple but classy, with some very effective touches to some shots that in themselves add meaning to what we are seeing.
Matching this, the cast are all very good in their roles but the film belongs to Matt Damon. He is faithful to the script by showing the complexity of his character and also the emotions he feels are convincing throughout. He is personable as well as needy, deceptive as he is revealing it is a very good performance. Law is also as good and it is a shame that some people who hate him in this do so because of the homosexual element to his performance for me I thought he added the sexual tension between him and Damon really well. Damon is the main star but the support cast is also deep in quality with Paltrow, Blanchett, Hoffman, Hall and even Coupling's Davenport giving good performances.
Overall this is a great film but not because the story is great because, during the film, the main story is simple and some viewers may be bored by it. However what kept me interested were the many threads and ideas running within it, all of them making me think and adding layers to the characters. These layers are seized upon by the actors, in particular Matt Damon, an actor I'm not overly fond of but has great range nonetheless. All these are pulled together by good direction and delivered in a classy product that, like Tom, is much more than it seems on the surface.
`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 movie is a brilliant portrayal of a troubled mind. The movie never
dwells on how and why Tom Ripley became the impersonator that he was. But it
is unnecessary in this movie. Sadly because he could not share his secrets
to anyone, he lived a lonely life. But Tom Ripley was a man with love and
insecurities. His insecurities made him utterly selfish to the point of
being inhumane, recluse and shy, but he had rather strong feelings. So many
times he came close to confessing to Peter and even Marge. He even
considered confessing to Inspector Roverini and Meredith. But he couldn't.
There were so many times he thought he was totally cornered and that he had
no way out. But he was not weak enough to commit suicide. His instincts of
self-preservation (however crude they may have been) pushed him into
committing murders so that he could move on. He was a doomed character
unless he confessed to someone and let them take over his life and restore
him. But he never could do it till the time shown in the end of the movie.
That is why he had to push away all the people that he loved and that loved
him (or hated him). And the only way he knew to push them away was by
murdering them. And the only way he survived all this (or a person like him
can survive all this) was through his intelligence and his three
Now onto the review of the movie. Matt Damon acted his very best. It is not easy for the viewer to understand and appreciate the character that Minghella wanted Damon to portray. I thought Damon did a superb job. Often times, he had to show Ripley's mind simply through his mannerisms. I thought he portrayed the conflict in the character very well. The disarming innocence and simplicity to the point of humility, the unassuming confidence about his talents, the discomfort of not fitting in, the charming or nerdy smile (as appropriate) and a seeming ignorance of his attractive traits were all superbly portrayed by him. I believe he should have definitely garnered much more recognition for the superlative performance. Jude Law and Jack Davenport were amazing in their roles as well. The character of Dickie Greenleaf is as complicated as that of Tom Ripley, except that they have been brought up in the opposite ends of the spectrum and their lifestyles show ample proofs for that. They both seek not too dissimilar ends, though they seek it through totally different means. The difference in their positions in the society is also shown by the denial-mode that Greenleaf is in, as opposed to a certain degree of understanding and acceptance of his personality by Ripley. This does not mean Greenleaf is dumb, as is evidenced in his last scenes before being murdered by Ripley. I definitely think Jude Law gave another superlative performance in the movie. Cate Blanchett was suitably artificial, while Gwyneth Paltrow was brilliant in flashes. My jury is still out on Paltrow's abilities. Philip Seymour Hoffmann was brilliant as well. He and Damon clearly depicted the uncomfortable understanding and anger that was always there between their characters in the undercurrent. Stefania Rocca was good in the very few scenes she was in.
Much has been said about the cinematography of the movie and I completely agree with the praise. The script, editing and direction were first rate. That is ultimately why the film succeeded totally in its objectives. Minghella should have garnered a directorial nomination as well.
I read Patricia Highsmith's novel before I watched the film (in fact I was
just in time!), not because `the book is always better than the movie' (I
not in favour of such generalisations), but because I felt obliged to be
chronologically correct in following the artistic adaptation. Trying it
other way around can only make sense if you can be objective enough or
Artistic genius is what I'd call Anthony Minghella, who adapted and directed for the screen the latest masterpiece The Talented Mr Ripley. This 1955 novel is Highsmith's first of a number of Ripley stories. Needless to say, after the success of this screen adaptation, the others will follow, however with a different cast and crew and hence, in my opinion, with doubtful success to come. The Talented Mr Ripley is a novel dipped in dense psychology and intriguing human interaction. It is the journey of the aspiring young man Thomas Ripley around Italy and his deceitful engagements brought about by the ---ironically- innocent desire of happiness. The reader is immersed in the raw psychological reality that is sometimes frightfully familiar to all. Admiration, desire, jealousy, hatred, lies. the never-ending change of environment and circumstances, and yet the ever-stable personal fixations, traumas and needs. Thomas Ripley is not to be despised. And although he surely does not provide the example to follow, he is occasionally to be identified with.
How masterfully Minghella has simplified the story without losing any density, and in fact making the whole picture better defined than in the book, should be a screenplay adaptation teaching example. A novelist has the enormous advantage of 'psychographic' elaboration and exploration, and Highsmith most certainly excelled in delivering Tom's complex portrait. But then Minghella took advantage of film imagery and dialogue and never lost the complexity and tension of any character, even with economised plot events, which are, in fact, appreciated. Additions and changes such as the impersonation of Herbert Greenleaf, the saxophone instead of painting, the characters of Meredith and Peter, and many more, were really assets to the story on screen. Now, on the slightly negative side, the film suffers the same thing that the book does (unavoidably). That is how the audience (or reader) excitement declines in the second half. Police interrogation and `factual proceedings' in the second half replace a lot of captivating character interaction in a most beautiful environment in the first half. And I did prefer the book's ending. It leaves you with enough question marks for the evening (in cases like myself for the week) but not too many on the other hand, like the film does.
The subtlety of the homosexuality element in both film and book is skilfully real and it is only optional whether that is an issue taking priority in the whole picture or not. Finally what I found very interesting, but not necessarily agreeable, was the transformation of the Tom-Marge relationship. The loathing-turned-into-sympathy of the book is entirely reversed in the film. I found the book's version more enjoyable. As for the Marge-Dickie relationship, the book's rather platonic version is more interesting and uniquely real, but I guess the constraints of cinema in terms of audience attraction and box-office performance are too risky to ignore.
The verdict: A very good book and a brilliant adaptation. Matt Damon's weak, innocent and perplexed Ripley is a thriving achievement, Jude Law shines in a most convincing manner, Gwyneth Paltrow always looks fabulous as the tortured victim and Cate Blanchett is simply a delight to watch in all respects. Music and cinematography are beautiful. There is simply no flaw in the cast or production team of The Talented Mr Ripley.
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