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The Talented Mr. Ripley


After a 4th watch, I think am ready to tackle reviewing the richly complex psychological thriller from 1999 that is as mesmerizing as it is aggravating and leaves all kinds of story elements open to personal interpretation. This is all a part of the cinematic enigma known as The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Tom Ripley is a washroom attendant who accidentally meets a millionaire whose son is living in Italy and Tom claims that he and Dickie, the son, were schoolmates at Princeton. This motivates Dad to offer Tom $1000 to go to Italy to get Dickie to come back home. Upon arrival in Italy, Tom instantly bonds with Dickie and his fiancee, Marge but the bonding reaches beyond friendship slipping into obsession and maybe even further than that and when Dickie decides he can't play by Tom's rules, it forces a fatalistic move on Tom's part that forces him into a dangerous charade that gets stickier and causes more collateral damage as Tom goes into self preservation mode.

Anthony Minghella has mounted a fascinating drama here, based on Patricia Highsmith's novel, where a lot is left to viewer interpretation. Each time I have watched this film, I find myself waffling as to whether Tom falls in love with Dickie or if he wants to be Dickie and being unable to decide what's going on in Tom's head I've finally realized is rather futile because Tom is a sociopath and I'm still not sure if he was in love with Dickie or not. This is made all the more aggravating because the sexual tension between Tom and Dickie is off the charts, though both men are in denial about it and that's what makes this story so fascinating...how does Tom justify what he does and how does it affect Marge and how does he sleep at night and is he going to get away with this?

Minghella's intelligent screenplay is matched by his crisp and detailed direction that always raises questions for me every time I have watched this film, but the brilliant performances by Matt Damon and Jude Law, who received a Best Supporting Actor nomination are a primary selling point as well. The sexual heat these two actors generate onscreen is undeniable, whether or not it was intended it's there and it's what makes this film sizzle. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchett, and Jack Davenport are solid as more collateral damage in Tom's orbit. Gwyneth Paltrow's Marge is a little hard to take, but does not deter from a film that I never tire of re-watching but still feel like there's a payoff I should be getting that I'm not.