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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Matt Damon Shines as RIPLEY
by Betty Jo Tucker

Everyone has certain talents. Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) lists his three best ones as "forging signatures, telling lies, and imitating almost anybody." But these are exactly the things that get him into trouble in The Talented Mr. Ripley, a psychological thriller based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel.

Ripley, a young man with limited economic means, becomes fascinated with Princeton graduate Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) and his luxurious life in Italy during the late1950s. Although Greenleaf and his girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) enjoy Ripley’s company for awhile, it doesn’t last. After Greenleaf tells Ripley he’s bored with him, a nasty incident results in the rejected friend trying to assume Greenleaf’s identity.

Damon’s childlike look of innocence makes him a perfect choice to play Ripley. He delivers a flawless performance in a role much more demanding than his Oscar-nominated turn in Good Will Hunting. He even surprises fans with a pleasing vocal rendition of My Funny Valentine. This number and another brief clowning around scene in Greenleaf’s bedroom hint at Damon’s musical comedy potential. Too bad Hollywood musicals are a thing of the past.

Matching the film’s gorgeous scenery, Damon’s co-stars Law and Paltrow take your breath away, making it easy to see why Ripley falls under the spell of the characters they play. Paltrow, who won last year’s Best Actress Oscar (for Shakespeare in Love), never disappoints moviegoers. Her classic simplicity and charm are reminiscent of the late, great Audrey Hepburn. And, although supporting cast member Philip Seymour Hoffman may be earning rave reviews for his portrayal of the drag queen in Flawless, he is much better here as Greenleaf’s obnoxious college chum.

Despite these wonderful performances, The Talented Mr. Ripley fails to meet expectations. It suffers from a confusing script and an unsatisfactory ending. In addition, Highsmith devotees may be disappointed with the changes made to her original story. Director Anthony Minghella, Oscar winner for The English Patient, also wrote the screenplay, so he bears major responsibility for the movie’s weaknesses. However, this creative filmmaker certainly deserves kudos for including those stunning location shots as well as such incredibly haunting background music. And, of course, for casting the talented Mr. Damon.

(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "R" for violence, language, and nudity.)

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