Film Review: The Talented Mr Ripley
Underneath the undeniably beautiful exterior of this film lies a complex,
emotionally intelligent film screaming to get out. Unfortunately, the film is
almost ruined, as in director/writer Anthony Minghella's last film 'The English
Patient', by chronic overlength. Despite the best efforts of a fine cast, 'The
Talented Mr Ripley' is a film that never truly lives up to its potential.
Matt Damon plays Tom Ripley, a chameleon con artist who is sent to Italy by a rich shipping magnet, Herbert Greenleaf, to bring back his idle son Dickie (Jude Law). Whilst there, Tom passes himself off as a former classmate of Dickie, falling for his lush, indolent lifestyle as much as for the man himself. Yet when he is rejected by Dickie, Ripley murders him and begins to assume his personality.
It is an intriguing plot, bearing many themes such as sexual ambiguity, appearance versus reality and class conflict. The novel on which the film is based, by Patricia Highsmith, is considered a modern classic. In adapting it for the screen, Minghella has chosen to heighten the sexual undertones, but, as mentioned above, misfires on the pacing. After the death of Dickie, the film grinds to a halt for about 25 minutes, denying the film the drive and tension it would need to succeed fully. However, for the first hour, it is a faultless adaptation, making Ripley's character a credible loser whilst showing the attractions of the lifestyle that he experiences.
The film's looks will do the Italian tourist board no harm. The cinematography and costume departments make full use of the 1950's-rich-Americans-abroad milieu. Every scene is framed in glorious sunshine, whilst the villas and yachts of wealthy tycoons give the film a deliciously decadent flavour. Kudos must also go to the jazz influenced score from Gabriel Yared.
What holds this film together in the flat sections is the acting from the leads. The standout is Matt Damon, taking on a challenging, potentially career damaging role as a gay serial killer. He manages to make him pitiable, yet monstrous, giving us tantalizing glimpses of the turmoil that lies beneath his calm exterior. Damon outshines even his breakout role in 'Good Will Hunting'.
As Dickie Greenleaf, Jude Law gives a performance that has finally opened the Hollywood door. It is not surprising, considering the charm, intensity, yet playfulness that he brings to Dickie. Cate Blanchett is given the least interesting role as the flighty Meridith, but does nothing to dent her status as a rising star.
Finally, we come to one of the most maligned actresses of the last year. Isn't it amazing what an embarrassing acceptance speech can do for your profile? Gwenyth Paltrow, a genuinely talented actress, who can count excellent performances in 'Shakespeare in Love', 'Emma' and 'se7en', gives another accomplished performance. She looks radiant, and makes the rather wet character of Dickie's fianc? Marge, touching and sympathetic.
'The Talented Mr Ripley' is a film that is well worth going to see. It has adult themes and emotions, which are treated with intelligence. But unfortunately, the fatal flaw of the movie, its pacing problems, threatens to derail the fine work done throughout.