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The Talented Rip Van Winkle

Why Matt Damon's new film is such a bore

Comparing a film to its original text can be disappointing. The chronology of the book is always chopped up and re-pasted. The narrator tends to change from first person to no one, which is particularly problematic when one character is the whole focus of the book. In Patricia Highsmith's novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom Ripley is a somewhat disturbed but incredibly suave man about town. In Anthony Minghelia's new screen version, Ripley (played by Matt Damon) is creepy and weird. This difference disrupts the plausibility of Ripley as a con-man who manages to weasel his way into a free boat ride to Italy, free room and board once he arrives, and ultimately a new identity.

Although the movie sort of drags its feet with lulls long enough to go to the bathroom, get popcorn, and smoke a cigarette -- there are definite high points. The score by Gabriel Yared (The English Patient, The Lover), and the foot thumping jazz for ex.ple, allows you to close your eyes and just listen when the pace s. . l . .o . .w . .s down.

Although Gwyneth's Marge was about as believable as Milla's Joan of Arc, Phillip Seymour Hoffman's Freddy Miles practically stepped out of the book (not to compare). Jude Law and Matt Damon do not need (or deserve) any more praise -- wouldn't want to give them big egos.

On the other hand, the cinematography was truly romantic with rich colors and postcard views. The sense of being in Venice, Rome, or Southern Italy is worth the snore of watching Matt Damon nerdily stumble over cobblestones. Setting the film in Italy in the late 50's and focusing on wealthy ex-pats allows costume designer Ann Roth to turn the big screen into a couture runway show. Perhaps Paltrow serves a purpose after all.

The most redeeming quality of the film, however, was probably the graphic violence. Just when it seems as if nothing interesting will ever happen in the movie again, whack, bam, blood. It is hard to determine whether the movie would have been better if you never read the book. But it's fair to say that what the film lacks in pace, it compensates with pretty.


The Talented Mr. Ripley
rated R
2 hours 12 minutes

Matt Damon
Gwyneth Paltrow
Jude Law
Cate Blanchett
Philip Baker Hall