This film was released in 1999, an adaptation of the novel by Patricia Highsmith. I really can’t believe I haven’t seen it before, and I’ve never read the book. Maybe when the movie came out I was too busy doing other things, like looking after a baby daughter, to have time to go to the cinema. Which probably explains why I have never seen ‘Fight Club‘ or ‘American Beauty‘ either.
When Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) borrows the jacket of a Princeton graduate in order to stand in for a piano player, it is not unreasonable for party guest Herbert Greenleaf to ask Tom whether he knew his son, Dickie (Jude Law), at University. Mr Ripley, an accomplished liar, mimic and forger, pretends that he did. When Mr Greenleaf Snr offers Tom £1,000 to travel to Italy in order to persuade his wayward son to come home, the young fraudster accepts without compunction. Once in Europe, Tom quickly ingratiates himself with Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), and is drawn into their luxurious, hedonistic lifestyle. But Dickie is capricious and he tires of Tom’s fawning attention. When Tom confesses his true feelings for the glamorous playboy, he is cruelly rejected and retaliates with violent rage. The ensuing passionate argument sets off a train of events which leaves young Mr Ripley hovering between deception and discovery.
With its wealth of emerging talent, this film is gripping entertainment. The actors are bright young things, Law epitomising the carelessness of those accustomed to wealth, contrasting sharply with Damon’s restroom attendant inferiority. But Mr Ripley learns quickly and his shape-shifting skill is the key to the watchability of the film. I was on the edge of my seat as the net drew in around the extremely talented Mr Ripley, wondering if he had just one more trick up his sleeve. My only regret is that I hadn’t read the book first.