Ripley: Narcissus   Show Only 
April 12, 2024 10:58 AM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Tom reinvents himself again, creating an enviable life in Venice—as long as his lies hold. Special guest: Caravaggio!
posted by sylvanshine (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is such a beautiful show. Start to finish, I don't know when the last time I saw black and white look so good. It's also fun to watch Tom wriggle out of a fix or whatever, but damn, this is a good looking show!
posted by surlyben at 5:20 PM on April 13

I did enjoy the series.
Everything looks amazing. En when it's a dingy flophouse in NYC where Tom is living. And the scenes in Atrani and Venice all the more of course.
It's like a travel guide to late 50s Italy. Even corpses are left not on any grimy street but the Via Appia Antica.
There was a scene of Tom slepping a body down the stairs that might as wel have been Peter Lorre in a 1930s expressionist movie. The gruesome silhouette repeated by the stark shadown. It looked so cinematic.
A large part of the attraction is: vicarious living. It's as if we ourselves are on a holiday in Italy. Lying on the beach. Renting a boat. Being more affluent than the locals.
Life was so different in the late 50s. People transfered money by writing paper checks. You'd write paper letters to communicate. You'd get a landline to be able to receive calls. (which is used to great effect in the plot). People in Italy wouldn't know English.

Choosing painting as Greenleafs leisurely pastime and proof of lack of talent didn't work for me. Most paintings look bland in black and white. Even Caravaggio.

I did enjoy the series. There was one central flaw though. When Ripley meets Greenleaf he's bitchy and unresponsive from the beginning it seems. For instance not responding at all to Greenleafs paintings in a way that clearly says: your paintings are worthless. Which makes it hard to understand why Greenleaf would keep him around.
Similarly Marjorie dislikes Ripley from the start. It would have been much more interesting if she'd started out normally welcoming. And becoming gradually more suspect and critical.
There's just no charm to Ripley. Which makes his success inveigling into this blessed life unbelievable.

The one thing that I liked better in The Talented Mr Ripley is how it painted a picture of adolescent friendship getting so intense that it almost eclipses a sexual partnership. That is the one thing that the Ripley tv series lacked imo.

As a sidenote:
I think there are 4 elements that make the character of Ripley so successful
1. people do not always like the people they gracefully interact with. There's a place for that in Highsmiths writing.
2. what if we were not held back by scruples and acted on our dislikes and greed. Like an Übermensch
3. coupled with that: surely we / Ripley have better taste than the undeserving rich. They have no talent and thus are not worthy of their trust fund etc
4. spending time with Ripley is like a miniature holiday in southern Europe

I think Robert Harris took some inspiration from Highsmith in his Hannibal Lecter character. And took it to an extreme.
posted by jouke at 11:08 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]

I was already enjoying Inspector Ravini, and then in this episode he told Tom Ripley, "my wife is from Atrani" and I paused the show to laugh. (A few episodes ago, talking to 'Dickie', his wife was from Cortina.)

Marge was interesting this episode, deciding to trade on her proximity to Dickie just as Tom is distancing himself from the whole thing. And showing the limits of her imagination, I suppose? When she comes to Venice and takes Tom up on his offer of a spare room, and gets drunk, yikes... She was the suspicious one, but it turns out she isn't nearly as suspicious of Tom Ripley as she should be. Because she's profiting off Dickie too now?

There's a recurring theme of 'game recognizes game' in this show - Tom and Carlo, the inspector and Tom-as-Dickie, and in this episode there's just a bit of Marge using Tom for his fancy house and party invites. (And Tom muttering to himself, "Don't call me Tommy.")

This was grand. The biggest criticism I have was that the show liked that ashtray a whole lot more than I did. They could have cut its screen time in half and gotten the point across, good grief. But at least we were on the same page about Lucio, the most majestic cat in Rome.
posted by mersen at 6:44 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]

I also loved this, and my one bone to pick is that Scott and Johnny Flynn (who played Dickie) seemed a little too old for their roles, especially in the scenes with Datoka Fanning and Eliot Sumner (Freddie).
posted by The Notorious SRD at 11:04 AM on April 16

Another thing I loved is just how BAD he was at covering up the murders. He's doing this perfect grift, floating through Italy and suckering everyone he met but when he has to deal with bodies he's basically a bumbling oaf who gets extremely lucky twice. I don't know if those parts were meant to be funny but I thought they were hilarious.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 11:07 AM on April 16

Show of the year for me so far, and that's including Shogun and Mr and Mrs Smith, both of which I loved. The whole thing was riveting from start and finish, not only because it was sensationally shot.

In discussions elsewhere, there are complaints that Ravini should've easily seen through Tom's disguise. This strikes me as yet another casualty of "plot hole" thinking, which is to assume all characters are smart and perceptive at all times. Tom's wig, facial hair, different dress, lighting all combined to make him look very different, to my eyes, and while he didn't change his voice, exactly how well are we meant to assume Ravini understands different English accents? I can understand Cantonese as a second language but I wouldn't reliably be able to tell speakers apart, especially after a long journey from Rome to Venice.
posted by adrianhon at 3:45 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

I was already enjoying Inspector Ravini, and then in this episode he told Tom Ripley, "my wife is from Atrani" and I paused the show to laugh. (A few episodes ago, talking to 'Dickie', his wife was from Cortina.)
That was an amazing line in an amazing scene. The same line which had made Ravini seem menacing to Ripley (as Dickie) now makes him look like a fool. Ravini is sitting right in front of the same man who formerly presented as Greenleaf and is now apparently Ripley - but he is being successfully fooled by the lighting, the opulent surroundings, accent, hairstyle and Ripley's own storytelling. We see that Ripley seems to function best in situations of high adrenaline - where he is forced into the open and has to improvise and take risks. This (and the scene where Marge produces Dickie's ring) are the best illustrations

I note that Patricia Highgate wrote "The Talented Mister Ripley" - on which this series is based - but then four other later sequels. Are we going to get these added to the series I wonder?
posted by rongorongo at 4:01 AM on April 26

I forget many of the details of the second book, but it revolves around art forgery. So I think the Malkovich character’s introduction points to some intent for another season.
posted by condour75 at 7:19 AM on April 26

If you watch the full credits, you'll hear audio that hints at a follow-up in France...
posted by adrianhon at 4:22 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]

At least in the UK, Neflix has made The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) available alongside this show. It is not a bad film (5 Oscars, I mean) - but I very much missed the space that we get in the TV show to show nuance and ratchet up tension. Freddy's dispatch is over and done in a couple of minutes, for example - and we don't get much character development from anybody other than Tom and Dickie. The extra screen time also helps with all the convoluted plot details - particularly as we get to the final act in Venice.
posted by rongorongo at 10:58 PM on April 28

condour75: " I think the Malkovich character’s introduction points to some intent for another season."

Perhaps, although John Malkovich has also played Tom Ripley, so it may be that they just found an excuse to include him as a professional courtesy.
posted by adamrice at 11:21 AM on April 29

I enjoyed the show on the whole, but kind of like the original Shaggy Dog story, my takeaway was "ehhh, he wasn't that talented."

Maybe I'm being too harsh on old Tom, but it seems to me that despite his disdain for the upper class, and his striving to climb into it however possible, once he attains it he's subject to all the traits he despises: he's arrogant, lazy, and frankly pretty damn stupid. Going to Rome at all, keeping the ring, thinking he can fool Ravini with bad lighting and a wig (and he does, but still).

It was interesting to see this in the context of the crypto scams unfolding generally around us, which are the most recent way for grifters to move en masse into the echelons of the rich -- as I said in another comment on this site recently, it's upsetting to see people who rolled a couple of Nat20s convince themselves they have 18 INT... and get away with it, in this case.

Never read the novel, but when I watched the Damon movie I thought that Ripley was a preternaturally good con artist. Watching the series, I think he's an incredibly fortunate boob. It's great that Highsmith wrote something that can flow both ways like that.

And -- all of the above aside -- I really enjoyed it! Well acted, masterfully shot, great music. But I don't buy that Ripley is particularly good at anything except being a lucky sociopath.
posted by Shepherd at 5:09 PM on May 12

Pretty sure the use of the word talented is a bit tongue-in-cheek.
posted by tovarisch at 2:20 AM on May 13

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