Damon Breaks Law
Anthony Minghella's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is not the first time Patricia Highsmith's novel has been adapted to film, back in 1960 René Clément made "Plein soleil" and somehow I wonder if in maybe another 40 years it will be adapted again. The reason being is that the storyline which follows Tom Ripley, his friendship with Dickie Greenleaf and then the spiralling into a world of lies and cover ups is riveting. Unfortunately Minghella's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" doesn't quite capture exactly how good the story is, becoming a bit confused and convoluted in the second part but still remains an above average movie which grips you early on and keeps you gripped till the credits start to roll. Much of the reason why it's above average lies not just with the clever twisting storyline but very good performances from both Jude Law and Matt Damon.
Having borrowed a Princeton jacket so that he could play piano at a party, lavatory attendant Tom Ripley (Matt Damon - Rounders) is propositioned by Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) who believing that the young man is from Princeton stock pays him $1000 to go to Italy and talk his son Dickie (Jude Law - Gattaca) to come home. But when he gets to Italy and meets playboy Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow - A Perfect Murder), Tom falls in love with everything he sees and having befriended Dickie begins to enjoy living the high life. But when Dickie grows tired of Tom he feels rejected and goes to great lengths to keep on living the life of luxury even if it means spinning a convoluted web of lies to achieve it.
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" is very much a movie of two halves with the first being the better of the two. It focuses on Tom heading to Italy to bring Dickie Greenleaf home but ending up in love with Dickie's life style and happy to have such an exciting new friend. It's a pacey first half as we watch Dickie's almost Bohemian life style doing pretty much as he likes, sun bathing, having affairs and most of all enjoying jazz at his favourite night club. But whilst pacey it draws us in to the characters as we understand them from the insecurity of Tom through to the manipulative nature of Dickie. As such their relationship is very much of Tom doing what he can to please Dickie whilst Dickie basically playing with him until he becomes bored.
What is so nice about this first half is that whilst establishing the characters and their relationships it has flourishes of intrigue which lay way to what is to follow. We learn that Tom is a master of impression and has an ability to forge signatures whilst Dickie may have a girlfriend he also has an eye for the women. Plus we really understand how Tom feels for Dickie when his friend Freddie shows up and there is a jealousy which reveals itself so clearly.
Unfortunately the second half of the movie ends up becoming a bit messy, still entertaining but lacking something to bring it all together. This second half focuses on Tom and the spiralling web of lies as well as the lengths he will go to protect himself once Dickie basically tires off him. It is still a clever half full of intrigue which almost gets us to the edge of our seats as to how far Tom will go but the shock of it seems to be lacking. As such what was well on its way to being a great movie falls short as this second half becomes drawn out and a bit too messy, bordering on the absurdly convoluted instead of the cleverly convoluted.
But whilst the second half is messy it has to be said that Minghella has created a beautiful at times atmospheric movie. The first half with its pace and vibrancy really captures this almost playboy life style of Dickie and the stunning scenery, the Italian backdrop is truly magnificent. The second half is much darker and more intriguing losing the vibrancy but gaining an almost moodiness in fitting with the storyline as it twists and turns.
Though there are issues with Minghella's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" the acting is pretty spot on and not just from Matt Damon and Jude law. Those actors and actresses such as Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Davenport and Philip Seymour Hoffman who take on supporting roles create solid characters especially Hoffman who really delivers the spoilt brat and nastiness of Freddie to perfection. But it is Matt Damon and Jude Law as Tom and Dickie who make the movie work with Damon being convincing as this almost insecure character of Tom who needs attention whilst Law delivers so much naturalness as the playboy Dickie. It maybe down to the fact that the second half sees the movie focus solely on Tom that things go a bit wrong because Jude Law really gives the movie life and energy during the first half.
What this all boils down to is that "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is a very good movie but it could have been great if it wasn't for a second half which ends up overly messy in contrast to the excellent first half. But despite this it is entertaining and the story is gripping as are the array of stunning backdrops but it is the great performances from Matt Damon and Jude Law which help to make it a better than average movie as with out their clever performances it could have ended up all too false.