Watch it Again: Talented Mr. Ripley

This week, The Talented Mr. Ripley showed up in the red envelope in my mailbox. My boyfriend had never seen it, and it had been so long since I had, that I had forgotten a lot of the story. It was well worth watching again 11 years later.

Paltrow, Law & Damon

The 1999 film, starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow and directed by Anthony Minghella, was nominated for a handful of Oscars, and I would have liked it to win some. Aside from the all-star cast, the cinematography, costumes and score were also beautiful.

If you are also rusty in remembering the story, I think that the promotional taglines may assist in reviving your memory:

  • How far would you go to become someone else?
  • Everybody should have one talent… what’s yours?
  • It’s better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody.

So, if you recall, Tom Ripley (Damon) is a working-class guy in 1950s New York, making ends meet by playing piano at high-society events. One client notes Tom’s (borrowed) Princeton sweater, and Tom thinks quickly and claims to be a friend/classmate of the client’s son, Dickie Greenleaf (Law).  Dickie has rejected taking on the Greenleaf responsibilities and is living in Italy with his girlfriend Marge (Paltrow). Dickie’s father commissions Tom to go to Italy, on his dime, to convince his “old pal” Dickie to come back to the States.

Tom is thrilled to escape his basement apartment and gets on the ship and finds Dickie. The socially awkward (or is he?) guy quickly becomes a double agent by confiding to Dickie his true purpose, and he and Dickie team up to live it up in Italy with Tom’s stipend from Dickie’s dad bolstering Dickie’s own allowance.

We get to see Tom build bonds with Marge and Dickie while he learns every aspect of Dickie’s life. Dickie is a fervent fan of jazz music, and plays the saxophone in various Italian clubs. Tom teaches himself the ins and outs of jazz, and it becomes a bonding experience between him and Dickie. One of my favorite scenes of the film (and a top pick on my iPod as well) is the two of them in a club singing “Tu Vuo’ Fa l’Americano”. Ultimately, we see Tom’s friendship for Dickie develop into more than that, which of course goes unreciprocated.

I won’t give away the ending, but it is enthralling to see this sociopath methodically work to take over the identity of the man he has grown to love. He does so without displaying any remorse for what happens to those who cross his path.

After years of seeing Matt Damon in the Bourne Identity action series, I found it refreshing to be reminded how talented (pardon the pun) he really is. He plays this mentally disturbed person just as convincingly here as he plays Jason Bourne. Jude Law, who I don’t really remember being in much memorable lately, is terrific and truly personifies the tanned, carefree, and often careless, Dickie Greenleaf. Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman all provide depth to their supporting characters.

If you haven’t seen The Talented Mr. Ripley in a while, I’d recommend pulling it out of your DVD collection or adding it to your Netflix queue!


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