"No matter what you've done, no matter how terrible, no one ever thinks that
they're a bad person." These words are uttered by Mr. Tom Ripley, played
perfectly by Matt Damon. The line perfectly sums up the kind of character
Ripley is. Looking back over several of Damon's previous films, one realizes
that while he has always done admirably, he has also been overshadowed by even
greater co-stars. In "Good Will Hunting", Robin Williams stole the glory, and
in "Rounders", audiences were so mesmerized by Edward Norton, that Damon was
overlooked. Here, Damon is able to display his considerable acting talents
without fear of being upstaged
Tom Ripley openly admits that he has three talents: forging signatures, lying,
and impersonating people. When Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) hires Tom to
go to Italy and bring his wayward son, Dickie (Jude Law), home, Tom puts these
talents to use. Tom soon becomes best buddies with Dickie and his fiancee Marge
(Gwyneth Paltrow). Tom soon becomes so obsessed with the lifestyle he now
lives, that after an "accident" on a boating trip claims Dickie's life, he
decides the best course of action would be to assume Dickie's identity. This
soon has him sinking deeper and deeper into the pits of depravity as he
attempts to keep his lie alive.
"The Talented Mister Ripley" is perhaps the type of film Hitchcock would have
made, were he a director in the '90s rather than the '50s and '60s. Beautifully
shot in Italy, a rather eerie sense lingers behind each scene, even before
Ripley changes. The main difference between this film and a Hitchcock piece is
the so-called subtext. This is most likely due more to the changing times than
to any directing or writing style. If this had been made by Hitchcock, the most
subtext that would have been present would perhaps have been Gwyneth Paltrow's
line: "It's a good thing we're not getting married soon, or else we'd have to
take Tom with us on the honeymoon". In this tale, made for '90s audiences, Tom
is blatantly homosexual, as are several other characters. Whether this should
be viewed as a fault or not is entirely at the discretion of the viewer.
The acting here is truly something to behold. As I've already said, Damon is
amazing, but the entire supporting cast is excellent as well. Jude Law in
particular delivers a particularly amazing performance. Gwyneth Paltrow nicely
underplays the role of the only person who doesn't believe Tom, and Phillip
Seymore Hoffman is perfect as a friend of Dickie's who begins to suspect
everything is not as it seems. Cate Blanchett is unfortunately underused in the
role of a woman who believes Tom is Dickie. Also look for an entertaining
appearance by Phillip Baker Hall as a hard boiled detective.
One of the film's largest flaws is the running time. At 139 minutes things
really do tend to drag, particularly at the beginning where perhaps a bit too
much time is spent setting the plot into motion and introducing the characters.
However, this is the film equivalent of a good "page turner" of a novel. It
does a great job of holding your interest, making you wonder how Tom is going
to get out of each situation created by his lie. An enjoyable film overall,
though far from flawless, I give "The Talented Mr. Ripley" four stars and a
recommendation to try and catch a matinee.
Feel free to e-mail with comments at: JABII@aol.com
* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now.
* * * * - Great flick. Try and catch this one.
* * * - Okay movie, hits and misses.
* * - Pretty bad. See it if you've got nothing better to do.
* - One of the worst movies ever. See it only if you enjoy pain.
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem