The Talented Mr. Ripley Review
By Joe Lozito
His Taken Identity
Director Anthony Minghella delivers another beautiful looking film adapted (by himself) from a novel. But unlike "The English Patient," his earlier, far superior film, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is lovely wrapping without much to say.
The Mr. Ripley in question (played with a hint of guile under his boyish charm by Matt Damon) is a lucky lad who is chosen by a rich father to go to Italy to convince his son to come home. Once Mr. Ripley meets the son (Jude Law), who is adamant that he is staying, he begins to admire and insinuate himself into the playboy's lifestyle.
The film takes place in the late 50s and is populated with the kind of "Sun Also Rises" expatriates that cruise around Italy living off of God knows what money (perhaps embodying the insufferable bore persona is Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in another splendid performance). Mr. Law is perfectly cast as the pretty boy that Mr. Ripley obsessively emulates. In a more star-making take on his "Gattaca" alpha-male, Mr. Law is right at home stumbling happily around the streets of Naples throwing a "Buon Giorno" to passing female conquests. It's easy to see what keeps Mr. Ripley and Gwyneth Paltrow's doormat of a fiancée coming back for more.
Cate Blanchett is woefully underused as the only character not in the original novel. Ms. Blanchett's character becomes nothing more than a ridiculous plot contrivance by the end of the film - an ending which seems to be tacked on though it adds nothing and, in fact, leaves the film in a kind of anticlimactic limbo. This may have been Mr. Minghella's plan. The Ripley character, after all, does appear in a series of novels. It is possible, though exceedingly unlikely, that a sequel could follow.
Matt Damon makes the most of his few facial expressions and manages to create a Ripley that is clever enough to make the audience wonder what he'll concoct next. Though it is never clear from the film what would make an otherwise ordinary citizen an identity-changing sociopath, that is not really the point. In fact, there doesn't seem to be much of a point to the film at all - except as a test to see if an audience will voyeuristically hang on a hateful character's every action. The answer, of course, is yes. But at two hours and forty minutes, it's a long question.