I love three of the four films I've seen, written and directed by Anthony Minghella. The fourth film was Cold Mountain and it doesn't make the list of "Lovable films." I can't tell you I think it's a "bad" picture, but it just wasn't my type of story, I suppose, and the romance between the main characters didn't really do it for me. At all. I like Nicole Kidman well enough, especially in things like Moulin Rouge, The Others and (I will admit it) Australia. I did Not enjoy Margot at the Wedding, though I thought she acted well in that, in addition. Whoa, tangent.
ANYWAY, The three Lovable Films are: Truly Madly Deeply (1990), The English Patient (1996) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). All three films feature brilliant actors, marvelous character relationships and writing, and the cinematography is lovely. What can I say? I like my senses to be bathed in luxury. I like things that are beautiful, or set in the past, and when the two combine, I am a goner.
Before I begin I should say that I'm not well-versed in the language of expert film-critique. I know when something is good, bad or terrible and I am a True Snob to the core, believing my taste to be gourmet, with the slight nod to my general leanings toward things glamorous, period, and pretty. I accept people whether or not they want to watch an Ingmar Bergman movie with me and I try to accept people even when they like things I secretly enjoy disdaining. Stepping aside from my rambling, I'm not very good at explaining Why something is good, bad, or terrible, other than a few terse statements about acting, writing, and the "prettiness" factor. So, my apologies....
First stop on our journey through Minghellaland: The Talented Mr. Ripley, based on the 1955 novel of the same title by Patricia Highsmith. I haven't read the novel, so am unaware of the differences, however I think this film is charming. Okay, charming in the sense that it is well-made and enjoyable, not in the sense that the end left me feeling romantic and whimsical. The story revolves around a middle-class, twenty-something sociopath named Tom Ripley, who meets a wealthy shipping magnate that assumes Tom is a Princeton man (he is wearing a Princeton jacket when they meet, etc). When the magnate asks if Tom knows his son, Dickie Greenleaf, Tom lies and says he does, leading Mr. Greenleaf to send Tom off to Italy to force his crazy, world-traveling, party-having son to come back to the states. It's the 1950s. We're in gorgeous, sunny Italy with a HUNKY Jude Law and an adorable Gwyneth Paltrow. Tom weasels his way into a friendship with the two and secretly falls in love with Dickie (who wouldn't?). Everything is happy and beautiful and glamorous and pretty and frothy and sugary and Swell, not forgetting the fabulous jazz music. At this point, I am already in love with the movie, even though I know Tom is a big, fat compulsive liar and this romance will not last. Watching this film was sort of like watching the first half of the movie, Titanic. You Know that ship is going to sink, people are going to die and it's going to be ugly, but everything is so decadent and picturesque at first, and you find yourself hoping for the best, though the worst is inevitable.
Another delicious quality of the story: it's a tragedy that puts the viewer on the side of the villain. I found myself wanting Ripley to escape consequences, to find sanity and reason and to escape his mistakes, even though he was dangerous. I enjoy stories told from odd perspectives and angles that make the good vs. evil line foggier. I believe this suspenseful, intriguing film achieves that very well. Oh and Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman make fun character appearances! Hoffman is his usual, intellectual louse (is it really bad that I enjoy him? Because I do) while Blanchett is a socialite with one of those sugary, continental voices. What more can I ask for in a thriller film? To make a terribly long, convoluted story shorter: A+ for Mr. Minghella, may the man be resting in peace somewhere, proudly sipping a cappuccino or something.