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The Netflix ‘Ripley’ will make you pine for the 90s

A NEW VERSION of Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ has been remade for a new audience.  It’s been 25 years since Anthony Minghella’s excellent film version had Matt Damon’s Ripley fall in love with Italy, wealth, glamour and Jude Law. Gwyneth Paltrow showed us why she’d become a Hollywood goddess and even the plain girl was played by Cate Blanchett.

A solid new version might suffer in comparison, so the production team at Netflix have dispensed with any pale imitation accusations and gone for something quite different.   They’ve delivered the opposite of excellent.  Let’s make it, they must have giggled, really, really, noticeably bad, like taking a bet-level bad.  And let’s make it eight hours long.   And do they deliver.  Inexplicably, both are playing on Netflix at the same time so let’s compare and contrast.

Matt Damon’s Tom Ripley was shy and preppy and awkward.  He charms us as he tries to hang with the cool crowd. In this oppositeland take, Andrew Scott’s Tom is weird and old and inappropriate and starey – and playing Ripley with the energy of one of those guys that prostitutes won’t entertain.   If this guy was near the wealthy set he’d be considered a stalker in minutes.

Gwyneth’s Marge Sherwood was all fifties, happy and trusting, but now in an 180 degree turn is played by Dakota Fanning.  Dakota looks like the grown-up version of the traumatised child she played in War of the Worlds, now, suspicious, shark-eyed and rude.  She doesn’t buy Andrew Scott’s pretence at all, probably because she can spot an alien invader from far off.  She’s also dressed like an art school student in the 2020s and just seems too clinically depressed to even have a haircut.

Where beautiful Jude Law was Dickie, the rich, popular, fun-loving, golden, trust-fund guy, we get Johnny Flynn.  Johnny Flynn is usually great but in this perfect miscast, he looks every inch his 40-plus years and like Dakota, seems to have followed a director’s note of playing it mournful.  This Dickie wouldn’t know fun if it snogged him. He’s all about his art, and seems more like a mature student who has quit his boring job to travel the world and realised too late, that wherever he goes, he is still him.  Where in 1999 we wanted to hang out with Dickie, now it’s God, who invited Dickie?

Matt Damon as Tom, Jude Law as Dickie and Gwyneth Paltrow as Marge in the original, The Talented Mr Ripley

It’s still Italy.   But where Italy was all blue seas and cloudless skies and crowds and tradition and food and fun in 1999, is now grim and cheap and out of season because the director has decided to go with a black and white art school affect and film it in what looks like January.  It’s a cloudfest.  Where in the 1999 version Ripley introduced himself to Marge and Dickie on a sun-drenched happy place, the new Ripley finds new Marge and Dickie looking like a couple who’ve decided to end themselves and now lie waiting on the tide to come in on Saltcoats beach.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was Freddie; the larger than life, wealthy, disdainful, hedonistic mocker of poor Tom is sadly gone.  Now Freddie, in a mind-blowing choice, has been replaced by what seems to be the Famous Five’s George in a performance reminding us acting can be really, really hard.  The Famous Five could have been handy in solving the mystery of how this youngster was ever given the part.  (A clue could be being one of Sting’s offspring).

It may have paid off for Netflix.  The new series of Ripley has a 93% critics approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  So, yes, it has definitely paid off.

But reader, it’s rubbish.  It’s a steaming pile of poo.  It’s so far away from the film that any links between this film are like opposites.   It’s an eight episode indulgent, art student’s dream.

Ripley just doesn’t come close.

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Top square photo: Andrew Scott as Tom in the Netflix version. 


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