The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
Main cast: Matt Damon (Tom Ripley), Jude Law (Richard "Dickie" Greenleaf), Gwyneth Paltrow (Marge Sherwood)
Director: Anthony Minghella

Insidious and subversively likeable, that's a term I would call The Talented Mr Ripley. It plays on my subconscious feelings of envy and dislike to those high-fling socialites more fortunate than I, whether I know I harbor such feelings or not, and the end result is a thoroughly despicable, sympathetic, and intriguing antihero. Add in slow-burn homoerotic sensuality and raging seething emotions and I get one of the most compelling movies ever.

Tom Ripley hates who he is - a nobody. It is better to be a fake somebody than an honest nobody, he says. He lives in a cramped apartment, attends the gents' room for tips, and dreams of playing the piano in a grand concert. One day, luck offers him a chance to be somebody. He is mistaken as a Princeton alumni and a classmate of slacker playboy Dickie Greenleaf. Could Tom go to Europe and bring Dickie back?

Tom ends up abetting Dickie in the latter's perpetual vacation and endless spending money. Dickie is a narcissistic man who keeps Tom on because Tom amuses him, and he cheats mercilessly on Marge, his girlfriend. Tom, drawn by Dickie's high lifestyle and charisma, soon finds the boundaries between envy, worship, and lust blurring into one helluva mess. When Dickie discards Tom, things start to hurtle out of control.

Ripley is novelist Patricia Highsmith's creation, a misanthropic creation out to expose the folly of the rich and pampered. This movie highlights the start of Ripley's career as a human parasite, a man who kills and then takes on the identity of the men he craved to be in a brilliant mix of lies and good fortune. No one suspects Ripley - much - the moment Ripley exudes aristocratic obnoxiousness society associates with the rich and pampered, everyone bows before him.

Matt Damon is perfect as awkward, psychotic Ripley, and Jude Law... oh my. That man practically convinces me that he is the most beautiful man on earth. Self-absorbed, the man makes every person he focuses his short attention span to feel as if they are at the top of the world. It is easy to understand Marge's blind devotion to Dickie. Dickie is a star, a superstar. He can make a woman forgive him for trampling and breaking her heart all over yet again.

But Ripley, now that's a man to savor. Brilliant, dangerous, yet subversively likeable, Ripley makes deception an art. I like him. nay, I applaud him, and you know what's scary? I want to be just like him. Ripley is also a pathetic figure as he sabotages his chances at happiness in his quest to be somebody else. In the end, he is a lonely, increasingly bitter man who has to be constantly at his guard. I still like him.

Alfred Hitchcock would be proud. The Talented Mr Ripley is a brilliant, no, almost excellent work of suspense and thriller. This movie makes evil insidiously attractive. Good thing Mr Minghella isn't writing Communist tracts, eh, Advocates Of Free Democratic World Organization people?

Rating: 95

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