First off, let
me apologize for the lateness of this review. The pickings for movies have been
slim lately, and I haven’t been able to get myself off my lazy ass to see a
3-hour epic like Magnolia, no matter the quality. I’m already waiting for
the big guns to start hitting in the spring with American Psycho and Mission
But anyway…The Talented Mr. Ripley. The last Matt
Damon movie I saw was Dogma; in that movie, he was still playing the
naive-young-guy role he seems to enjoy. This film, however, has shown me that
Mr. Damon does indeed have some true acting talent. He has finally made a film
which places him on par with and, in my opinion, above his buddy
On the whole, the entire film is acted well. Jude Law (who
happens to share my birthday) plays Dickie Greenleaf, a spoiled rich brat who
lives the lazy life we all wish we could, hanging around in Italian villas with
his beautiful American girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow) while
impregnating his native mistress. Enter Thomas Ripley (Damon), a poor New Yorker
who, after being mistaken by Dickie’s father for a fellow Princeton alum like
Dickie, is sent by the father to bring Dickie back.
Predictably, Thomas gets caught up in the high life Dickie is
living, and fails in his task miserably while endearing himself to Dickie and
Marge. An interesting love triangle also develops, as Thomas begins to fall for
Dickie (yes, Dickie). The homoerotic overtones are handled with subtlety, and
Damon does a fantastic and believable job in striking the right balance between
Tom’s desires and his nature to be, as Dickie says, "boring," or, to
be less tactful, anal-retentive.
As the trailers hint, things eventually take an ugly turn,
and Tom soon finds himself performing acts he never would have thought himself
capable of. As the story progresses (and it does so very, very slowly,
one of the few flaws of the film), it tires to examine the emotions behind
"evil" – what causes people to do bad things, and how lies must build
upon themselves and crime breeds crime. While this theme is handled well, I’d
recommend Sam Raimi’s underrated A Simple Plan (1998) for a more in-depth
and masterful exploration of the same issues.
While Law and Damon shine, Paltrow is once again, like Shakespeare
in Love, stuck in the role as the love interest, and she never really moves
beyond the role. Indeed, by the end of the film, her laborious sobbing and
histrionics are not only unconvincing, but irritating. More interesting is the
lovely Cate Blanchett as Meredith Logue, another American debutante spending
some time in Europe. Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Dickie’s boorish friend Freddie
Miles, performs his role to irritating perfection and Jack Davenport gives a
nice touch of empathy to the tortured Tom.
As I mentioned before, the film does drag a bit, and
unfortunately, it’s not isolated to a particular portion of the film, but
infects the entire work – it’s as if the plot has been squashed a bit. Some
smart editing could have aided the film greatly. But the characters are
well-imagined and the plot and emotional subtexts are refreshingly complex; it’s
a film worth seeing, at least for Damon’s performance.
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