The Talented Mr. Ripley

Oh, to be rich and American, wasting all the time in the world in Italy. Much like many of the characters in Anthony Minghella's (The English Patient) new film The Talented Mr. Ripley, based on Patricia Highsmith's novel of the same name. Highsmith went on to write four sequels to the book, chronicling the adventures of the sneaky Tom Ripley, some of which turned into movie adaptations. Here, Minghella does his own take on the material, bringing the homosexual undertones to the surface, adding a new character, and changing the story to fit his vision of the novel. The movie The Talented Mr. Ripley is as much Minghella's (who wrote and directed it) as it is Highsmith's.

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon, Dogma, Saving Private Ryan) is essentially a loser. He lives from day to day, a virtual unknown to most of the world. While pretending to be a piano player, he meets a man who asks if Tom went to school with his son. Tom lies and says yes. The man, Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Game) confides that he wants his son, Dickie back. Dickie ran off to Italy to live with his girlfriend Marge Sherwood, and is wasting his life spending his father's money. Herbert offers money if Tom can convince Dickie to return, and Tom accepts. In Italy, Tom uses his talents for lying to quickly insinuates himself into the lives of Dickie (Jude Law, eXistenZ, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow, Sliding Doors, Shakespeare in Love). Tom then tells Dickie Herbert's plans, and Tom and Dickie team up to dupe Herbert. Now, they can comfortably live off Herbert's money, while Herbert thinks Tom is hard at work.

Tom's attraction to Dickie grows as they spend more time together. Tom is also enamored with Dickie's lifestyle, which is carefree and fun. However, Dickie is fickle, and his attentions quickly turn from one person to another. Tom ends up doing away with Dickie, and then assuming Dickie's identity. He weaves a web of lies to Marge and Dickie's other friends, always making an excuse as to why Dickie isn't present. To complicate matters, Tom presents himself as Dickie to Meredith Louge (Cate Blanchett, Pushing Tin, An Ideal Husband), and proceeds to almost begin a relationship with her. Marge begins to suspect that something sinister is happening, and Tom's lies begin to slowly unravel.

Almost everything in this film is of high quality (just look at all the Academy Award winners and nominees). Damon is absolutely creepy as Tom. He is deathly afraid of being a nobody, and goes to incredible lengths to avoid his fears. Blanchett, Law, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Magnolia, Flawless) are great as lazy American ex-patriates. They are rich, they are spoiled, and they could care less. Law in particular exudes immaturity. This is his highest profile role to date, which should put him square in the hearts of many a prepubescent girl (ooh! you see his butt!). Minghella's 1950s Italy is gorgeous, a pristine haven for lazy Americans. Minghella again collaborates with Gabriel Yared, the person responsible for the music of The English Patient. This time, they focus of old jazz standards, making them an integral part of the story.

As with many other recent movies, this one breaks the two-hour mark. In this case, it is not necessarily a good thing. The movie is beautiful to look and deftly acted, but a little long. The idyllic set up seems to drag a little long before the creepiness sets in. Then, the creepiness drags a little long before the end, which in hands less capable would seem like a cop out.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 15 minutes, Rated R for violence, language, and brief nudity.

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