COMING APRIL 6
An Anthony Minghella film
Starring: Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow
So sumptuous, ravishing, and effortlessly enjoyable it feels more like a champagne bath than a movie, Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley is a near-perfect confection, a beautifully executed Hollywood all-you-can-eat salad bar of glamour, plot twists, breathtaking Mediterranean vistas, and jazz. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith's comparatively creepy novel (already filmed by Rene Clement as 1960's Purple Noon, with an icily limpid Alain Delon in the lead), Minghella's movie emerges from a monstrous publicity thicket to fulfill nearly every promise of its homogenized hype — except originality, depth, or a respect for genre.
Highsmith's novel is modest pulp with a dark heart, but Minghella films it as if it were Proust, lingering and luxuriating, and buffing every image like a priceless gold watch. If you expect films to visually complement and/or express their themes, don't look to Minghella, for whom every landscape is a call to romance — even in a film about a sociopathic murdering spree. The results, however thrilling and expertly contrived, feel touristy, with none of Purple Noon's raw immediacy and effectively commonplace use of exotic Italian locales.
Inappropriate beauty and vacation porn won't bother most people, however, and in every other respect Ripley is impeccably crafted: Minghella never drops the ball, cuts the movie like a diamond, and elicits winning performances across the board.
Minghella brought Highsmith's homosexual subtext to the surface, which has been given a great deal of lip service, but it's as incidental as the Mediterranean vistas and iconic jazz score. In fact, like a plate of truffles, the whole film is incidental — but damned good going down.