Talented Mr Ripley

Movie Review by Louise Charman

Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour

Director: Anthony Minghella

?I?d rather be a fake somebody than a real nobody?. So speaks THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY, a young man with a quick mind and a gift for mimicry, whose desire to be part of the privileged set draws him ever deeper into violence and fraud. Set in New York and Italy in the late 1950?s, the film is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith?s psychological thriller of the same name.

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is an impoverished pianist who gets mistaken for an ex-Princeton student by Herbert Greenleaf, head of a rich shipping family. Believing Tom to be a friend of his son Dickie (Jude Law), who is living a life of luxury on the Italian coast, Herbert offers him money to go to Italy and persuade Dickie to return. Tom accepts, and prepares himself for the encounter with Dickie by swotting up on jazz music, Dickie?s latest craze. On arrival in Mongibello Tom ingratiates himself with Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) and for a few weeks enjoys the warmth of Dickie?s friendship. However as Tom begins to experience stronger feelings for his new friend, so Dickie begins to find Tom?s constant presence cloying. When they come to blows, Tom overwhelms Dickie and then continues a hedonistic lifestyle in Rome under Dickie?s name. Inevitably circumstances catch up with him and he is forced to take more and more extreme measures to cover his tracks.

Anthony Minghella, who left the 1996 Oscars ceremony with a swag of trophies for THE ENGLISH PATIENT, has chosen to adapt another novel for his latest project. However, the tragic elegance of the earlier work has been replaced by something all together more sinister. Matt Damon delivers a compelling performance as the insidious Ripley, who is a complex character: gifted but insecure, ambitious and arrogant at moments, yet vulnerable and desperate for love. Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf glows in the Italian sunshine but is at heart more conventional than he would like to admit. The homoerotic quality of their relationship – from Tom?s side at least – gradually emerges but it is only one aspect of his yearning for acceptance. Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett, both cast in this film before their respective high profile successes, play the bewildered women of the piece.

Watching Tom ooze his way into Dickie?s life makes for an engrossing film. Just how far he is prepared to go is made shockingly clear on more than one occasion. More shocking still is his continued success at evading capture, even when at moments it seems the noose is already around his neck. But although Tom seemingly escapes punishment, the irony of his existence is this: having worked so hard to become somebody else, he is forced in the end to sacrifice the one person who loves him for who he really is: the genuinely talented Mr Ripley.

5 out of 6 stars

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