It must have been a daunting task to cast for a screenplay well adapted from the brilliant Patricia Highsmith novel, one as deep in complexity and societal period piece “darkness” as anything F. Scott Fitzgerald ever published. For younger viewers today this might not be as well appreciated, but for its setting in the fifties, the homosexual and treatments of him were cast traditionally alongside aberrant practice presumed “associative”. In reality, this was because conventional eyes only saw both seeking similar subterfuge. And before this movie is over, the viewer will see these questions somewhat moot as it becomes clearer and clearer The Talented Mr. Ripley is about a young man absolutely capable of assuming ANY predilection in achieving his goals.
There are in this film, three roles demanding performances that near being definitive for those actors gracing them, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon. The playboy who has cultivated charm and male vivacity to the ultimate (and for whom it is clear Mr. Ripley has much affinity,) lost in his own capricious self-indulgence, has no idea of setting himself up as a moving target. His female companion, a match intellectually and socially but none for his philandering appetites, is the lovely Gwyneth Paltrow, graceful and introspective and much more able to see into the human chameleon Mr. Ripley increasingly becomes.
As in life we are never quite sure about what lies inside Mr. Ripley. We only know for what he is capable. A master of improvising solutions to every circumstantial exigency, his maneuvers become the action core and survive impending doom seemingly implausible to mortals. Is he this “talented” or are the Gods working circumstance to suit him? And do his victims somehow, with one or two exceptions, earn their victimization?
Supporting roles are wonderfully performed, scenes are on location and re-creation of period sets authentic and, at the same time, creative. Obviously expense has not be spared. Direction and screenplay is both by Anthony Minghella who succeeds brilliantly under both hats.
Tasteful, except in the utilization of a third century Roman bust as a bludgeoning weapon (although high euphemistic value,) intense, not for young potential psychopaths, nor for children of confused moral bearing. Probably a little complicated for younger viewers too.
Highly recommended, especially for Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and/or Matt Damon fans. (The reviewer qualifies in all three categories.) Great movie.