Sunday, December 5, 2010

Movie Review - The Talented Mr. Ripley

Money. Power. Blue blood. Murder. Deception. Manipulation. These are a few words that come to mind whenever I watch the film The Talented Mr. Ripley, based on the book of the same name by Patricia Highsmith. Usually, I will read a book first and then watch the movie to compare and contrast all the while thinking that the book will most assuredly be better than the movie. However, this movie is rare: it is just as good as the book (recently read the book after having loved the movie for years) due to excellent direction and a stellar cast of actors that give it their all during such a performance. Matt Damon plays the title role, Thomas Ripley: a young nobody whom, through luck and sheer chance, is swept up in a world he’d only dreamt of – the world of the wealthy elite. He is asked by shipping entrepreneur Richard Greenleaf to travel to Italy and get his playboy son and jazz lover, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), to return home and assume the role of a shipping executive. However, once Ripley arrives in Italy, thanks to funds generously given by Mr. Greenleaf, he finds that Dickie represents everything he’d ever wanted in life: power, money, elitism and escape from his own dreary existence. He soon befriends Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow) and begins to live the good life. Of course, Ripley has no intentions of returning to Italy with Dickie in tow; Ripley has no intentions of leaving Dickie’s side until Dickie’s friend, Freddie Miles (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) begins to question Ripley’s motives and just why there appears to be quite an “unnatural” attraction held by Ripley towards Dickie. Even Dickie begins to tire of Ripley and his naiveté when an Italian woman Dickie has an affair with is found drowned in a body of water nearby. She was pregnant with Dickie’s child and when Dickie refused to assist her, she killed herself. Ripley, owing more than his life to Dickie, offers to take the blame if the matter ever came up, leading Dickie to realize just whom he is dealing with.
Several days later while on a boat, Dickie confronts Ripley and lets him know just how annoying he truly is; Ripley retaliates, claiming that Dickie is nothing more than a spoiled brat who doesn’t know what he wants in life and soon the two fight, leading to Ripley attacking and finally killing Dickie with an oar. Now the fun begins as Ripley takes over Dickie’s life, assuming his name and everything that comes with it. Soon, the web of intrigue grows, leading to another murder – the death of Freddie when Ripley fears that Freddie has figured out what happened with Dickie. Marge, on the other hand, grows from slightly concerned to paranoid as she unintentionally feeds from Ripley’s lies as to the location of Dickie. She soon realizes that Ripley is not as innocent as he has claimed to be all this time but unfortunately, she is powerless to stop him. To make matters even more complicated, Ripley must assume Dickie’s identity whenever he is around Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett), another member of the wealthy elite; he introduces himself as Dickie to her when he first meets her after shortly arriving in Italy. Finally, we must not forget the character of Peter Smith-Kingsley (Jack Davenport), a music composer and friend of Marge Sherwood who expresses subtly a romantic interest in Ripley. Lies are told, secrets are being created right before our very eyes, bodies are piling up and in the very sorrowful but necessary end, we understand that Ripley can and will get away with it all. Set against the backdrop of 1950s Italy combined with a killer jazz soundtrack, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a classic that will live for the years to come.

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