3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Sweet Life,
This review is from: The Talented Mr Ripley [DVD]  (DVD)
I make no secret about being a fan of The Talented Mr Ripley, despite the fact that it would not usually constitute my usual movie fare. The reason being, that it is a labour of love on Anthony Minghella's part, and the attention to detail that is displayed counterbalances the film's deficiencies (of which there are more than a few, but not enough to knock off a star). It begins using the bare bones of Patricia Highsmith's source novel as a guide - 1950s Park Avenue gentility, the snobbery and preppiness of a young generation of Americans coming to terms with their role in the post-war world - but then veers off on its own tack, with Minghella's imagination contributing as much as Highsmith's book. Matt Damon is entirely believable as the somewhat nerdy pilgrim who gets sent on an errand to retrieve Dickie from his bolthole on the Amalfi coast, and shows an obsessiveness with his quarry (the Princeton yearbook, trying to like Jazz etc)which leaves us in no doubt that he is attempting the unthinkable - to transform himself from a workaday mooch into a member of the elite by any means necessary. Dickie, on the other hand, is just as flawed, being a narcissist who disposes of friends once they have served their purpose.
The early part of the film, where these two feed each other's insecurities and ambitions, is the most convincing; once Dickie meets his fate our anti-hero Ripley begins to flounder, as he goes about achieveing his materialistic aims of a luxurious lifestyle in Rome and the privilege that entails, but is thwarted at every step by unexpected old faces who interrupt him; Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett) and the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman as the loathsome Freddie Miles.
Having abandoned his identity as 'Dickie', Tom goes to Venice but finds his progress impeded by the reappearance of Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow)who finds Dickie's rings in Tom's sewing kit and confronts him, leading to the only slightly unbelievable element in the film, when Ripley briefly morphs into a music-hall villain, a scene which sits uncomfortably with the persona he has built up to this point.
However, the real star of the show is the landscape.The initial preppiness of the movie gives way to a gilt-edged, mahogany-tinged image of Italy as it once was, with the marvellously haphazard way that country has of overlapping its history and its contemporary culture with ease. The film crew should be applauded for going to such lengths. This isn't a film for those lacking in a decent attention span or those who seek a righteous denouement - watch Rene Clement's excellent 1960 version Plein Soleil for a different slant on the story - but revel in the spectacle, preferably with a bottle of wine.