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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Cinematic Perfection, 25 January 2003

James Ivory has quite simply turned a fine novel by Kazuo Ishiguro into a flawless screen masterpiece. This feature involves the finest acting in the history of quality drama, engrossing direction, beautiful cinematography and a hauntingly appropriate score that reflects the currents of this most challenged love story. What does remain at the end of the day?

Nominated for 9 Academy Awards in 1993, the film received none - one of the most inconsiderate and unfair practices by the Academy.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Vision, Art and Talent, 25 January 2003

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 am not in favour of such generalisations), but because I felt obliged to be chronologically correct in following the artistic adaptation. Trying it the other way around can only make sense if you can be objective enough or unbiased.

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.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Very Good! Not Best..., 25 January 2003

Lester Burnham (Spacey) is a miserable man in what could be described as a perfect household. His wife Carolyn (Bening) is an estate agent and a victim of the tension between her dreams and her actual surroundings. Their daughter Jane (Birch) is a discontented adolescent - or perhaps 'an adolescent' would suffice. The new neighbours are the family of aggravated and doubtful Colonel Fitts (Cooper); the wife who has absolutely nothing to say in that home (alternatively, who has absolutely nothing to say) and the son, Ricky (debut from Bentley), full of inner sensitivity and existential questioning, aided by drugs, the trading of which is the source of a huge income for him. Add the gorgeous cheerleader (Suvari) and the neighbouring homosexual couple, and there's your picture of American beauty.

The beauty, or lack thereof, is found, of course, within the self-examination every character is subjected to. The results may or may not be happy. However, disintegrating the illusion of the perfect picture and reaching the raw parts of reality is, perhaps ironically, the first step towards personal happiness - not to be confused with selfishness. Personal tension is common in all characters, the source of which appears to be in the unrealistic set-ups that they have all surrounded themselves with.

To me this is not the best picture of the year. Having said that, this is a film that can touch every member of every audience, because of its wit and truthfulness, and, not least, the beautiful and captivating work by English theatre-director Mendes. Spacey is good as always, although by no means exceptional. The entire cast is very impressive, particularly newcomer Bentley. The true jewel, in my opinion, is Annette Bening, who is wonderfully convincing as the confused and exasperated woman, torn by her optimistic yet failing attempts at a dream-like lifestyle. Plus she is to be credited with the most vividly entertaining sex scene, probably in the history of cinema.