"The Talented Mr. Ripley"

Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Blanchett, Jack Davenport

140 minutes, Rated R, Miramax
Released December 1999
Directed by Anthony Minghella

Warnings: Adult situations, violence

[JUNE 30, 2000]  Take a talented, good-looking young man. Take away family; add poverty, ambition, exposure to wealth, power and prestige; and add deception, to formulate the perfect serial-killer wanna-be, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon).

In this Hitchcockian thriller, Ripley gets his chance to be something he is not.

In 1958, while working for tips as a bathroom attendant at a Manhattan theater and filling in as a piano accompanist at a high-society affair, Ripley meets Richard Greenleaf I (James Rebhorn) and passes himself off as a Princeton classmate of Greenleaf’s son "Dickie" (Jude Law). Greenleaf I subsequently hires Ripley to go to Italy and bring his prodigal son home.

Ripley makes the trip across aboard a luxury steamship, traveling in first class, all expenses paid. Arriving in Italy, he searches out Dickie, and completes the deception by again passing himself off as a Princeton classmate who knew Dickie but probably was not known to Dickie. They strike up a quick relationship, and together with Dickie’s fiancée (Gwyneth Paltrow), explore the jet-set lifestyle on the southern Italian Riviera.



Ripley discovers that Dickie has indeed been living the prodigal lifestyle: a woman in every port, garish wealthy friends who would do anything to escape boredom, and simple deceptions to wile away the time with anything other than work. Unlike the biblical prodigal, Dickie never had to resort to feeding the pigs because daddy’s never-ending trickle of money never seemed to dry up.

Ripley continues to add to his deceptive skill set by quickly learning to imitate the mannerisms of the wealthy prodigal Dickie. Later when his money runs out, and Greenleaf I gives up on the return of his son, he is violently rejected by Dickie and in a fit of rage, kills handsome young Dickie Greenleaf. Gathering his skills, "forging signatures, telling lies and doing impressions of people," Ripley takes Dickie Greenleaf’s identity and for the rest of the story impulsively plots to stay one step ahead of being found out and being caught.

You will need to make the call: when did the impoverished who-am-I-this-time Ripley decide to pass himself off as the wealthy and connected Dickie Greenleaf?

This is a wonderfully-awful story. There are plenty of plot twists and turns, and the ending is not predictable. The characters are believable and they have a life of their own. You find yourself immersed in the storyline, unable to escape, necessarily unwilling to participate.



(To top of second column)

The cinematography is awesome and breathtaking. I lived the scenery of Southern Italy and Rome (I wanted to book my trip to Italy immediately), a stark contrast to the scenery in the New York/New Jersey shipyard where the story started.

The acting is perfect. Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow once again deliver award-class performances. And Jude Law was born to depict a wealthy, silver-spoon-in-the-mouth brat.

And the direction is wonderful. I found Minghella’s characters to be completely believable. Nothing was missing or belonged on the editing-room floor. The story was masterfully produced.



But I can’t watch this movie again! The last 20 minutes were excruciating, and I found myself unable to sit still waiting for the resolution of this wonderful-miserable plot. And as I paced back and forth with my eyes riveted to the screen, it became apparent that this story would never be resolved, and I was left hanging at the end…. once is enough.

Even though I can’t watch it again, you need to rent it and watch it once. I recommend it highly and know it is in stock at your local video store. I give it 4½ stars out of 5.





E-mail your comments to me at midge@lincolndailynews.com

"Light It Up"

Starring: Judd Nelson, Usher Raymond, Forrest Whitaker

99 Minutes
Rated R
Twentieth Century Fox

[JUNE 27, 2000]  "Light It Up" is a schizo movie: it can’t make up your mind what it’s about.

Set in urban New York City, the day starts at Lincoln High School with the students filing in. You notice their gang colors, their lack of discipline, their feigned fights and their threats. You notice the police at the door manning the metal detectors, the student plots to smuggle contraband past the checkpoint, and the general attitude of the administration: daily survival until retirement and pension are obtained.



The classrooms are unheated, the ceilings drip, windows are broken and the wind blows through. One in three students have textbooks. The students come from broken homes, impoverished inner-city homes, homes where they are victimized rather than protected. The police in this community take life rather than preserve it. In a society which believes that education is the only possible salvation, these children are being offered little of this element of grace.



In "Light it Up," at least one teacher cares. Mr. Noland [what – a pun: Noland = KnowLand?] (Judd Nelson) offers advice, relationship and is even somewhat interesting in the classroom. On the day that the window blew out in his classroom, he was advised by the principal to take his students somewhere else, anywhere else, which he did. He took them to a nearby diner, where while teaching he foiled an armed robbery. The principal then proceeded to suspend Mr. Noland for his irresponsible act of taking students off school grounds and exposing them to great risk.



(To top of second column in this review)

A group of students, led by Lester (Usher Raymond), protested the dismissal of their favorite teacher, the only one who offered them any hope at all. This protest escalated to a skirmish in which a uniformed police officer (Forrest Whitaker) was accidentally shot, and finally into a lockdown in which six students held the police officer hostage against a police siege. And thus, the story began.



"Light It Up" isn’t a bad movie. It seems to be a message movie that states that there are urban pockets out there where children aren’t being offered the same access to quality education. This is muted by the cleansed presentation the movie is making: youth culture has it all together and knows the answers, while the adults around them don’t have a clue and are harming everyone around them by their ignorance and hypocrisy. This movie is as one critic put it: "Dog Day Afternoon" meets "Breakfast Club!"

But it’s not just a message movie. The intent of this film is not to educate but to entertain. The music in "Light It Up" is excellent. The portrayal of the angst of the characters is perfect. The organization of the film sorts out each character and clearly defines their hopes, dreams and their history. And the plot is clear from start to finish (narrated in docu-drama fashion). However, because this movie seeks to entertain, the mission of "Light It Up" has been compromised. You will probably not take the messages of this movie seriously. "Light it Up" is watchable, but not significant.

I give this movie 2½ stars out of 5.




Have you noticed that Midge never seems to get out of the house. If you want Midge to review new movies at the theatre, rather than videos, send email to ldn@lincolndailynews.com. Make the message line read: "Midge needs a life."


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