Film: The Talented Mr. Ripley


Cast includes: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchette, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Screenplay/direction: Anthony Minghella (The English Patient)
Genre: Drama, based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith (1999)

In brief: “If I could go back and rip everything out… including myself… it started with borrowing a jacket.” Tom Ripley is lamenting recent events. It was the borrowed jacket that gave Mr. Greenleaf the impression that Tom went to Princeton with his son Dickie. “You must know our son… Dickie.” Tom has no idea who Dickie is, but he replies, “How is Dickie?” Mr. Greenleaf tells Tom, “You’ve probably heard that Dickie is living in Italy with Marge.” He tells Tom that Dickie’sin Italy sailing and “spending my money… that’s his talent.” All of a sudden, Mr. Greenleaf gets an idea… “Tell me Tom, could you ever conceive of going to Italy and persuading my son to come home? I’d pay you $1,000.” That’s a lot of money in the 1950s. Tom hesitates but Mr. Greenleaf insists.

In preparation for his new “job,” Tom learns all about Dickie’s favorite music, jazz. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker… “My Funny Valentine”… he memorizes them all. On the boat over, Meredith, of the famous textile family, mistakes Tom for Dickie Greenleaf, of the famous shipping family. Tom finds that the Greenleaf name comes with some advantages that he rather enjoys. Once in Italy, Tom finds Dickie and Marge on the beach. He pretends to bump into them by chance and pretends to be a forgettable friend from Princeton. He wrangles an invitation to drinks, and from there begins to ingratiate himself with Dickie and Marge. When Dickie asks Tom what his talent is, Tom does an imitation of Mr. Greenleaf proposing to send Tom to Italy to bring Dickie back. The imitation and the surprising confession of his mission completely startle Dickie. But from that point on, Tom becomes part of a threesome… Dickie and Tom together, like brothers… until, that is, Freddie comes on the scene. Freddie doesn’t know a thing about Tom. But he does know one thing… Tom isn’t in their social class. Suddenly the sun no longer shines on Tom… and Tom finds it quite cold on the outside. After all, Tom had quite gotten used to being Dickie’s brother. In fact, Tom was getting used to being Dickie. But with Dickie pushing Tom away, Tom’s new life is in danger of coming apart. Tom may regret some of the things he needs to do… but he needs to do them anyway.

The Mr. Ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith were popular pulp fiction back in the 50’s… except that they were darker than the other novels being published. Both the novels and the author are getting a second look today. Tom Ripley didn’t start out evil… it’s just that opportunities present and Tom improvises. We never quite know where Tom’s next move will take him… and neither does Tom. Every time we think we know where events are going, Tom abruptly changes course. Tom Ripley is devious, yet vunerable. We may find him loathsome at the very same time we root for him to succeed. This movie has some terrific performances, especially Matt Damon and Jude Law. It’s got a great look… Italy in the 50s… and a good soundtrack.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

Popped kernels for a perfect script, wonderful acting, great Italy scenery, good suspense. The singing scene in the club is worth a whole popped kernel. Excellent Jude and Matt, as well as the others. I loved this one.

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