Jeremy Bates's Reviews > The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
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Jun 28, 2011

it was amazing

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith was written back in 1955, which probably makes it one of the best “old” books I’ve read (yes, I know there are the towering classics from centuries past, and although I respect them and their authors immensely, I would not put any on my favorite list).

The Talented Mr. Ripley, on the other hand, would be in my top three.

I watched the movie first, which stars a relatively young Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cate Blanchette (and an amazing performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman before he became famous). If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. It’s one of Damon’s best, and that’s saying something given his excellent choice of roles padding his filmography.

When I learned the film was based on a book some years later, I quickly picked it up. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect, given it was written in 1955. I know that sounds like generational snobbery or something along those lines. But I’m more solidly in generation Y than X, and I’ve grown up with relatively modern books (and films) and like fast paced, quick reads.

Although the first chunk of the novel plods along a little as you get to know Tom Ripley, it quickly speeds up once he gets to Italy, and it never looks back.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a quick summary: Wealthy businessman Herbert Greenleaf offers Tom Ripley a proposition: a large allowance if he goes to Italy to bring back his playboy son Dickie. While in Italy, however, Tom becomes so captivated by Dickie’s lifestyle he begins to imitate Dickie to the point he becomes a near replica. Drinking the same cocktails, dressing the same, even speaking the same. That’s pretty creepy in itself, but it’s not enough for Tom. He wants to become Dickie Greenleaf, and nothing will stand in his way to achieve that goal.

Tom is an amazingly complex character. He’s never been happy with himself or the status quo, always wanting more and more. In fact, he’s paranoid, psychotic, a liar, a massive manipulator, and much, much more. Although you might not like him, you’ll find yourself a co-conspirator, rooting him on. This I believe is a very rare talent among writers: to make unlikable smucks likeable. Cheers to P Highsmith for achieving such a feat.

The Talented Mr. Ripley has been called of the great crime novels of the 20th century. Whether it is or isn’t, it’s one hell of a story, and strongly recommended, as is the film, which received a very good 7.3 on IMDB. Here’s the link:
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