Today! Because I always thought it would be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody –
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Directed by Anthony Minghella
Starring Matt Damon (x4), Gwyneth Paltrow (x3), Jude Law (x2), Cate Blanchett (x3), Philip Seymour Hoffman (x5), James Rebhorn (x2), Philip Baker Hall (x4), Jack Davenport, Sergio Rubini, Celia Weston
Ah, 1999! My fourth and fifth semesters of college really landed a lot of movies on this list – here we are at eleven already! – and I’m also surprised to find 1998 with only six, and none so far. Those are six pretty high ranking films! As I’ve mentioned, I consider the corridor of 1997-1999 as one of the best in film history (this is also possibly due to my finally being able to drive in this time period), and so films from this era keep cropping up.
A wonderfully atmospheric, psychological thriller, The Talented Mr. Ripley takes Patricia Highsmith’s solid murder yarn and elevates it to great cinema through a bevy of sterling performances and Minghella’s solid writing and directing – his best of the ’90s (Yeah, you heard me, English Patient!). Matt Damon was coming off Good Will Hunting, Gwyneth had just won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, and Cate Blanchett had just been robbed of that same Oscar for Elizabeth. This film also launched Jude Law – even if his career got way uneven for a long time afterward – snagging the film its only acting Oscar nomination as the object of everyone’s desire, Dickie Greenleaf.
It may just be the cast was too packed and everyone cancelled each other out – but it is still a bit of a surprise that Damon didn’t get more recognition, in what I’d say is comfortably his best dramatic performance. Tom Ripley is so complicated, so complex a character that shaded wrong in any direction might’ve sunk the film. You need to sympathize with him to a point, while also feeling appropriately aghast at the direction his misguided plotting takes things. He’s a villain, without question, but pitiable, and relatable, more than one might want to admit. It really is remarkable.
But so great was 1999 that there simply wasn’t room for Ripley. While I don’t think time is being particularly kind to American Beauty, it still was everything that award season. The Insider was solid, as I recall, but kinda unmemorable (perhaps because I haven’t seen it in twenty years). The Hurricane was unnecessarily bastardized historical fiction, The Sixth Sense was gimmicky yet wonderful, The Green Mile is perfectly fine, and The Cider House Rules sucked real hard. Plus you had a very actor-y Woody Allen movie with Sweet and Lowdown, and Richard Farnsworth got an Oscar nomination for The Straight Story, because why not? Where’s the elbow room for Ripley in all that?
Still, five Oscar nods is nothing to sneeze at, including Minghella’s screenplay, plus five from the Globes – Best Picture Drama, Director, Damon, Law, and score. But nowhere was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Best Peeping Shaming acknowledged! Unfair!
The whole main cast joins or advances in the guilds today, with Law (#383 Sherlock Holmes) and James Rebhorn (#318 Independence Day) joining the Twos, Paltrow (#265 Iron Man 3, #224 Avengers) and Blanchett (#267 Life Aquatic, #362 Hobbit) to the Threes, Damon (#208 Jay and Silent Bob, #195 Bourne Supremacy, #249 Ocean’s Eleven) and Philip Baker Hall (#217 Magnolia, #278 Zodiac, #274 Argo) to the Fours, and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman (Magnolia, #315 The Master, #255 Red Dragon, #300 Punch Drunk Love) becoming the 14th member of the Fives! Spotlight!