Stars: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow
There is one line in the film that sums up the character of Tom Ripley: “I always thought it would be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody.” Except, that line does little to tell you of the extremes that Mr. Ripley (Matt Damon) would go to achieve that goal.
Tom Ripley is an opportunist. His special “talents” include forgery, impressions a good memory and the guts to follow through with his ideas. All good suspense elements.
Ripley, who’s already put on a charade of having been a student at Princeton, is asked by wealthy shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) to go to Italy and convince errant son Dickie (Jude Law) to come home. Ripley could use the vacation and the money so off he goes. He discovers in Dickie everything that he himself is lacking: a free all- expense paid life in a sunny clime, rich friends, good clothes, excellent meals, grand hotels and nonstop fun. It makes him drool to the extreme. So does Dickie. Ripley weasels his way into Dickie’s life and that of Dickie’s girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow) and in no time he’s living with Dickie, eating his food and wearing his clothes.
Dickie doesn’t mind too much, because for him, Ripley is the flavor of the month, a new friend to offer amusement, at least until he gets bored with him. The talented Mr. Ripley finds the good life slipping away and that’s when he takes action.
What follows is a very interesting character study, a suspense yarn of murder, fraud and identity theft of the grandest scale.
Anthony Minghella directed this from a screenplay he wrote based on Patricia Highsmith¹s acclaimed novel which is set in the late 1950’s. But the film at 2 hours 20 minutes really feels much longer and the story’s main character is too flawed when you ponder him. It’s okay for a hotshot criminal – which is how Ripley is conceived – to make the occasional mistake but Ripley is just stupid from the moment he sets himself up as the new wealthy bon vivant. And the film’s ending (as well as the book’s?) is a major cop out.
Not wishing to give away any more details, I’ll stop there.
All of the performances are excellent. Matt Damon gives us a especially good rendition of a complex character yearning for everything that life has to offer. Look for Cate Blanchett as Meredith Logue, a wealthy friend also hitting the high spots in Italy and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Freddie Miles, Dickie’s best friend. On top of good acting skills, Jude Law is a looker!
Lotta says it’s more in the character portrayals because the story has some hiccups! But, it’s a film worth seeing; the Italian scenery is lovely.