Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Movie Review: The Talented Mr. Ripley


First released: 1999
Starring: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jack Davenport
Director: Anthony Minghella
Based on: the novel by Patricia Highsmith

Tom Ripley is a young, very poor musician living in New York City in the 1950's.  The kid is earnest and hungry and at first seems like the perfect American caricature of a future self-made man.  But then he meets Herbert Greenleaf, famed shipping magnate, and a small white lie eventually turns Tom into yet another typical American archetype--someone who will do anything, even kill those he loves, out of greed and self-preservation.

If I had to describe this movie in one sentence, it would be, "If Hitchcock made The Great Gatsby."  The build-up of suspense is slow, but very effective.  By the end of the movie, the sinister mood weighs upon you like a brick on your chest.  At the same time, this isn't just a suspense film--it's about class and greed, as well.  Tom is a poor nobody trying to fit into life of the idle American rich in Italy, and the desire to remain there is what really draws him into a life of deceit and murder--a dark room where all his secrets are kept, he calls it.  The character he confesses this to assumes that he's talking about his homosexuality, but in reality he's talking about who he really is--someone who doesn't belong in the Greenleafs' world, and never will.

The performances were, by large, really great.  Especially Matt Damon's--he was totally convincing and pitch-perfect.  Jude Law has played the same type of character before, so--yawn.  Gwenyth Paltrow reminded me once again why she won an Oscar, and Philip Seymour Hoffman was excellent, as well.

I had two major problems with the movie, which actually tie into each other: one, Cate Blanchett's character.  She's utterly random and doesn't feel organic to the story at all; she just shows up whenever Tom needs the screws put to him a little tighter.  This kind of makes sense, though, since she's the only character who was added by the screenwriters and isn't in the book.  That leads me to issue two: the length.  This movie is two and a half freaking hours long.  By the hour and a half mark I was ready to wind this puppy up and put it to bed, and by the hour fifty mark I started reading a book.  There was a lot of
unnecessary crap in this film that could and should have been cut, not the least of which was Cate Blanchett's character--the ten-minute jazz club montage, for example.  God save me from directors and party/club montages.

As for the Venice part of the movie, it was small.  There are some great shots of Venice, but most of the scenes were in Rome.  They're great scenes, however, and the apartments Tom picks out once he takes on Dickie Greenleaf's allowance are absolutely to die for.

This is a good movie I would absolutely recommend, especially if you enjoy suspense films รก la Hitchcock.  The acting is impressive, the script is smart (even if it could have used some editing), and the setting's fantastic.  Definitely a solid film all-around.

venice mini challenge
3/2 completed (I'm an overachiever like that)

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