April 17, 2024

Westside People

Complete News World

The Netflix series doesn't live up to the novels

The Netflix series doesn't live up to the novels

Patricia Highsmith's 1955 crime novel The Talented Mr. Ripley is considered one of the greatest thrillers of all time. It has produced several film adaptations, including Anthony Minghella's “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” starring Matt Damon and Jude Law. Given the 1999 film's commercial and critical acclaim, an adaptation of the series for the streaming era was almost inevitable, and after it was sold by Showtime to Netflix, “Ripley” saw Andrew Scott step into the titular character's shoes. Academy Award-winning writer-director Steven Zaillian — behind such works as “Schindler's List” (for which he won an Academy Award for Adapted Screenplay) and the 2016 HBO limited series “The Night Of” — brings his own spin to the psychological thriller. Twisted and deeply unsettling, “Ripley” feels more sinister and stilted than its predecessors, making for a tedious rather than enticing viewing.

Shot in gorgeous black and white, “Ripley” opens in Rome in 1961 when a man drags a dead body down a marble staircase. But the story doesn't start here. Going back in time six months later, we find ourselves in the Lower East Side of New York. A far cry from the trendy neighborhood we see in movies and TV shows today, the area is home to some of the Big Apple's most unsavory citizens.

Here, in a cramped, rat-infested apartment, the audience is introduced to Ripley, a petty thief who makes a living conning chiropractor patients out of their money. As his latest scheme dries up, he stumbles upon the opportunity that will reshape his life forever. At a bar one evening, he is approached by a private investigator (Bokeem Woodbine) who mistakes Tom for a friend of his wealthy client's son. Soon after, Tom is on a ship bound for Italy tasked with luring his “friend” Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn) back to his concerned parents. Seeing his all-expenses-paid trip to Europe and the Greenleaf family fortune as an opportunity to understand the lifestyle he believes he deserves, Tom embarks on a dark path marred by lies, deceit, and murder.

See also  Kevin Samuels' 911 appeal, a woman desperate to save his life

More aesthetically pleasing than narrative, Ripley exposes the errors in the first episode. Since the characters are older than in previous adaptations (Scott and Flynn are both over 40 years old), it is implausible that the Greenleaves would send a man they do not know in search of their adult son. Furthermore, thanks to his detached demeanor, Tom doesn't even fake the affection or familiarity needed to pull off this trick.

While Dickie, an untalented novice painter, receives Tom warmly, his girlfriend Marge (Dakota Fanning) immediately becomes suspicious of her supposed acquaintance. Her hunch is correct: by the end of the first chapter, “A Hard Man to Find,” Tom begins to formulate his plans to take Dickie's lavish life for himself. What's hard to reconcile is that Tom is completely magicless. He's a quick thinker who can meticulously plot his way out of dark corners, but Tom's sociopathic personality and inability to show even a sliver of humanity make “Ripley” a bleak, uncomfortable watch.

However, the show remains a stunning cinematic spectacle, featuring long shots of Italy's monuments, canals and architecture. But the episodes are painfully long and full of dead space. As Tom spends a lot of time alone, planning his next moves or cleaning up his various bloody messes, viewers are forced to spend their time with him as he completes tedious tasks (writing fake documents, cleaning up evidence).

Additionally, although Tom is narcissistic and has limited people skills, Dickie and Marge aren't much better. Whether or not the viewer roots for Tom's lies and schemes, the show's central couple has little depth. Dickie is isolated and naive, a trust fund kid who has had the world handed to him. Although he certainly does not deserve to be one of Tom's victims, his lack of cunning makes him easy and deplorable prey. Meanwhile, despite seeing through Tom's facade, Marge allows her distinction to be washed away by Dickie's perceived disapproval; Her character arc that follows is a complete letdown.

See also  2023 Tony Award Winners: List Update

Ripley falters in part because Tom is devoid of temptation and acceptance. The series has none of the homoeroticism of Minghella's film, which is disappointing since Scott's sensuality has radiated off-screen in other roles. In addition to her first novel, Ripley, Highsmith has written four series featuring a con artist plotting his way through France and Germany. As an older and more experienced Tom, Scott's take on the trickster might have been more relatable in one of those stories. Also, given Tom's hate-filled references to the aunt who raised him, flashbacks to his childhood might have made for a more powerful story, giving the character a much-needed dimension.

Ultimately, “Ripley” fails to offer a new or interesting perspective on the notorious con man. Previous projects provided a more engaging experience as audiences became captivated by Tom's dastardly designs. Here, over the course of eight tepid episodes, he never undergoes any radical transformation. From the beginning, he is just a trickster who lacks ingenuity.

Ripley premieres April 4 on Netflix.