Re-Watch: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

The Talented Mr. Ripley is Anthony Minghella‘s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith‘s book (which I’ve reviewed here), starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jack Davenport.

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is sent to Italy to bring Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) back home. But Dickie doesn’t want to leave , seeing as he lives perfectly in Italy: off his parents’ money, with a beautiful girlfriend, Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a lot of time on his hands. Tom soon becomes obsessed with Dickie and when he feels Dickie’s affection turning, he has to do something desperate.

It’s been a while that I had seen this movie but I remember liking it at the time. I still do, but having read the book so shortly before watching, I have to say that the film just pales in comparison to it. Especially the changes in Ripley’s character are jarring in that respect.


Anthony Minghella created a very different picture of Ripley. For example, it’s apparent that in Minghella’s head, Ripley is gay* and in love with Dickie (and later with Peter), whereas Highsmith explicitly states that Tom isn’t in love with or desires Dickie, that he doesn’t even understand how people can be so obsessed with sex. Another thing was that Tom became more calculating in the movie – he actually plans to deceive Dickie, studying Jazz music to be able to talk about it, etc. In the book, it’s more a spur of the moment thing, and the deception is more insidious than actual lying. Personally, I think those changes take from the fascination with the character, but that could just be a matter taste.

In any case, I think Matt Damon was chosen wrongly. He’s a good actor, but he just doesn’t get his performance off the ground. Jude Law, on the other hand, is absolutely mind-blowing. [Maybe it would have worked better with Jude Law in a double role. ;)] His Dickie is brilliant. And of course, Philip Seymour Hoffman is wonderful, as usual, as is Jack Davenport. Gwyneth Paltrow struggles with a character that’s been changed for the worse and Cate Blanchett struggles with the fact that her character is completely unnecessary [and it pains me to write Cate Blanchett and unnecessary in the same sentence].

The plot is changed a little bit, but in the end I had the same feeling as with the book: I just wanted things to get a move on. Maybe the pacing would have been better if they’d just lost Cate Blanchett [which again, pains me a whole damn lot to write].

The film looks wonderful, in no small part thanks to the village playing Mongibello, which is absolutely beautiful, and the great costumes. And, I admit it, Italy in general and all the pretty people in this movie in particular.

Summarising: Good movie with a few flaws. The book is better.

*I think that take is quite interesting, since basically Tom starts murdering because he can’t live his homosexuality and it’s the women getting in the way. With Dickie, Tom can’t act on it because there’s Marge (and Dickie’s not gay), with Peter, there’s Marge’s breakdown first, and then Tom kisses Meredith.
Basically the film seems to be saying: If we took women out of the equasion and men just started sleeping with each other, there’d probably be no more murders. ;)

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