Gwyneth Paltrow is mostly thought of today as the operator of Goop, a “wellness” company shilling expensive products whose medical authenticity is dubious at best. However, there was a time when she was on the verge of becoming a respected actor, after her performance in 1998’s Shakespeare in Love that somewhat controversially garnered her an Academy Award. Following this was psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is riding high on Netflix’s viewing chart.
The film stars Matt Damon as the eponymous grifter and nascent serial killer, who is mistaken by a wealthy industrialist as a college classmate of his son Dickie (Jude Law). He is offered a job of travelling to Italy to convince the prodigal offspring to return home, and after befriending Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (Paltrow), Ripley eventually kills his charge and assumes his identity to continue his lavish lifestyle.
Although Gwyneth Paltrow’s presence in the film is secondary, she still plays an important part, as Marge is someone who knows Ripley’s true identity, and so her later reappearance threatens to expose his lies and see him face justice for his crimes. Though she was a periodic presence in varied and often unsuccessful movies over the next decade, it wasn’t until Iron Man in 2008 that her stardom was rekindled, with Ripley acting as one of the few times she showed genuine promise.
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name, The Talented Mr. Ripley is as seductive as its titular antihero, the persistent Mediterranean sunshine and smoldering homoerotic subtext duping the viewer into rooting for an amoral sociopath. Although a little overlong, it’s a compelling character study of someone you find yourself feeling guilty for empathizing with.