Genre: Crime Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 19 min.
Release Date: December 25th, 1999 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Anthony Minghella Actors: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Davenport, James Rebhorn, Philip Baker Hall, Stefania Rocca
fter he fills in for a pianist gig, and is mistaken for a Princeton man due to a borrowed jacket, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) realizes (or reaffirms) his affinity for deception. So when wealthy New York socialite Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) hires Tom for a hefty $1000 to sail to Italy to convince wayward son Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) to return home, Tom takes the opportunity to assume Dickie’s identity. After all, the Greenleaf name can open quite a few doors.
Upon arrival in Italy, Tom meets Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett), a young woman with a rich family (thanks to successful textile businesses), who utilizes a comparable yet opposite ruse – to travel and mingle while using her mother’s maiden name, to avoid unwanted attention. Shortly thereafter, Ripley locates Dickie and the girl he shacked up with (Gwyneth Paltrow as Marge Sherwood) and reveals his mission. But part of Tom’s continuing misrepresentation involves posing as a jazz enthusiast to worm his way into Dickie’s personal life – full of partying in Naples, sailing on his ship “Bird,” wiling away the days with sunbathing and espressos, and biking through the Italian countryside. When the reverie of spending the Greenleaf’s money on touristy vacationing comes to an abrupt end (after months and months of leisurely activities), and the reality of Tom’s uninspiring real life resurfaces, the unassuming mooch plots to hold onto his newfound pleasures.
The film moves quickly at first, shedding little light on Ripley’s history or upbringing. This works advantageously to portray his skill with impersonation and ingratiation and the studying of his next conquest. However, the pacing soon slows, as excessive character development and details overtake the mysteriousness and the shady motives. Tom’s behavior becomes exceedingly stranger, though his suspicious conduct doesn’t go unnoticed – particularly by pasty pal Freddie Miles (Philip Seymour Hoffman). But by the time a sudden moment of passion and betrayal kicks the picture back into a more suspenseful gear, the intrigue has already considerably waned.
“I don’t know what to believe.” The basic premise of assuming another person’s identity to such a staggering completeness seems better suited for a ripped-from-the-headlines tale or a based-on-a-true-story yarn. Instead, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” is an adaptation of the fictional character from the acclaimed series of novels by Patricia Highsmith. Here, there’s a certain vulnerability, a sloppiness in arrangements, and a level of extreme coincidence that regularly betray the cinematic nature of the material. Even when casualties increase, interactions become tenser, and the police show up, it never quite feels like a rat getting slowly trapped, but rather an overzealous conman following the procedures of a complex swindle, nearly negating the unsubtle implications of secret love affairs and ardent jealousy – or crimes of passion. It’s all very circuitous and occasionally crafty, but primarily it just goes on for too long. Filmmaker Anthony Minghella, no stranger to lengthy dramas (having previously tackled “The English Patient”), doesn’t know when to speed things up or wrap them up, despite having plenty of skill with character studies and directing strong actors.
– Mike Massie