Thursday, April 04, 2024



I absolutely adore Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels. They are slippery and subversive and dark and dangerous and about the best crime procedurals you can read. I have also loved many of the iterations by which Ripley has found himself on the big screen, from PLEIN SOLEIL to RIPLEY'S GAME and Anthony Minghella's superlative TALENTED MR RIPLEY.

When I first heard that Andrew Scott (ALL OF US STRANGERS) was cast as Ripley I was excited but I assumed that this would be an adaptation of one of the later books when Ripley was older. I was shocked to discover that this was actually an adaptation of the source novel where the characters are meant to be in their twenties. Johnny Flynn's Dickie is also in his forties.  The problem is that this makes the concept of the book seem ... well ... odd. Dickie Greenleaf dodging his responsibilities on a kind of extended gap year in Italy feels right for pretty young things but doesn't quite work for middle-aged men.  And thanks to Zaillian's choice to go for black and white photography, life in Italy never feels beautiful and lush and seductive. Rather, we start off in a world that is decaying and deserted and rather drab.  It's hard to see what in Dickie and Marge's existence would be attractive to Tom. Their life doesn't feel particularly luxurious. And there's no sexual tension between Dickie and Tom, and certainly no apparent love for Dickie on Marge's part. It's just all so flat.

As we move into the second act, things pick up pace. The crime procedural has its own momentum. Whether it needs five episodes though, is doubtful.  We see the quality of Eliot Sumner as Freddie Miles in their pivotal scene with Tom.  A scene that is played very differently to how Philip Seymour Hoffman played it, but with no less menace.  The problem is that Eliot is a good fifteen years younger than Andrew Scott and seems to be in a totally different film.

So far so problematic, but where this adaptation totally loses it is in the final episode. We begin episode eight with a flashback to Caravaggio which is way too on the noise, and a clear case of a showrunner being given way too much running time to pad out. We also get a confrontation between the police inspector and Tom that's so literally incredible it destroyed any respect I had for this adaptation. Minghella's choice to have them never meet was the more elegant solution.

RIPLEY was released on Netflix today.

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