Apr 17, 2024

"Ripley": Long, slow, artistic version of the gay-subtext con-man/murderer. With Tom's bum and Dickie's dick.

The Talented Mr. Ripley
 (1999) stars Matt Damon as the charming con-artist Tom Ripley, who has a gay-subtext romance with Jude Law's Dickie before murdering him and adopting his identity.  The 2024 version is a tv series, and reputedly overtly queer, taking the gay subtext into text.  I reviewed the first episode.

Link to the bums and dicks

Scene 1: Rome, 1961, atmospheric black and white.  Having just killed someone, a man with his face obscured puts on his shoes and hat and starts dragging the body down a palatial staircase.  

Scene 2: Six months earlier, New York. Tom (Andrew Scott) gets up in his run-down room in a residential hotel, walks the mean streets, steals someone's mail, and writes out a fake "payment overdue" notice

Then he goes to a bar and starts one of those highly-closeted 1960s hookups with a guy named Al (Bokeem Woodbine) Whoops, no, Al is a private detective, hired to find him and hook him up with the wealthy Mr. Herbert Greenleaf.  Tom refuses, then leaves to ride the subway and walk the mean streets some more.  

Back home, someone left his business card: From the IRS!  

Scene 3: Tom continues his scam: he steals payment checks, then calls or writes the sender, claims that it was lost in the mail, and has them send a new check to his own post office box. Nice establishing shots of the art deco post office and bank.  

Uh-oh, the clerk thinks something is wrong, and goes to consult the manager. Tom has to run away, and close down the whole collection agency scam!  What to do next?  Maybe Herbert Greenleaf's job won't be so bad...

Scene 4: Greenleaf Shipbuilders.  Tom is escorted past the big ships to the office, where Herbert Greenleaf tells him about the job: his son Dickie,  Tom's old acquaintance, has been living in Italy for years, pretending to be a writer or a painter, but really just goofing off.  Greenleaf wants Tom to convince Dickie to come home.

Why Tom?  They didn't know each other well.  Because none of Dickie's other friends wanted the job. Why would someone on the bottom of Dickie's friends list, who he doesn't know well and doesn't care about, be able to talk him into leaving Italy?  Tom must have a really big dick.

Scene 5: While he's considering the job, Tom has dinner with the Greenleafs. Back story dump: He went to Princeton. When he was young, his parents drowned. Uh-oh, maybe he killed them. Then they look at some photos of Dickie when he was young, in college, and now, in Atrapi, with Marge -- "girlfriend, friend, who knows?"  So Dickie is gay.

Scene 6: Tom at the tailor's, inspecting the clothes the Greenleafs bought for him. He gets his passport, signs travelers' checks, throws out his scam checks, and we're on the Orient Express!  In the Swiss alps; I guess in those days you flew in through Paris?   

He writes to his Aunt Dottie, who is getting a dental procedure -- which we see, for some reason: "You're free of me now, and I of you." I like the slow, moody structure, with the beautiful, weird shots of fire escapes, catwalks, and sculptures, but it's a little too slow.  How much time do we need to devote to Tom brooding?.

Scene 7
: Naples. Tom gets off the train, changes some travelers' checks, and asks for a bus to Atrapi.  He is pushed into a cab instead, and arrives at a darkened station in the middle of the night.  Nothing to do but wait until morning, then get on the real bus -- for a trecherous drive through the mountains!

Atrapi, finally!  He asks someone, in bad Italian, for Richard Greenleaf, and is directed up endless stairs, through arches and corridors, up more stairs. to a villa.  Where he is told that Richard is down on the beach!  Is this supposed to be a comedy?

Scene 8:
 Tom at a shop, trying on a very bulging swimsuit, while ladies giggle at him. He asks for something a little less revealing. 

The beach is deserted -- oh, there in the distance is Dickie, lying down, fully clothed, with Marge's head on his thigh.  Tom wakes them and introduces himself, pretending that this is a chance meeting. Dickie doesn't remember him, but invites him to go for a swim.  Uh-oh, Tom is afraid of the water, since his parents drowned.  He won't set foot into the water.

More Dickie after the break

Scene 9:
 They invite Tom up to their villa.  Uh-oh, he's out of shape -- they have to continually stop and wait for him.  Not making a good impression, dude.

Marge brings in cocktails while they look out at her house, up the mountain, and Dickie's boat.  Dickie gives Tom some hotel suggestions.  Hey, I thought he would stay with you.  

Scene 10: Lunch.  They discuss art -- Tom likes Caravaggio, the queer painter. Dickie points out that there are lots of Caravaggio paintings in town. Then: "Well, thanks for lunch, bye."  That was a little abrupt, especially for a very slow, brooding series.  At least gaze longingly at Dickie for a few minutes.

Tom climbs down the infinite stairs to retrieve his bags, then climbs back  up to the hotel Dickie recommended. He signs the guest register, climbs up to his room, and looks through the window at Dickie and Marge on their boat. Then he goes into the bathroom and pretends to be Dickie.  The end.

Beefcake: Just Tom in a swimsuit, displaying a bulge

Other Sights: Lots of gorgeously constructed shots.  Many stills -- well, we pause on them for so long that they feel like stills -- could be hanging in a museum.

Gay Characters
: No queer codes except the gay bar hookup, and that's subtext only if you already know that Tom is gay.  Maybe the interest in Caravaggio.  The overt queerness must come in a later episode.

My Grade: Beautifully filmed, but very, very, very slow. I know that Tom is getting a passport -- we don't need to see it.  Who cares about Aunt Dottie's dental exam?  And I can't get over the foolishness of thinking that a casual acquaintance, whom Dickie doesn't even remember, will be able to convince him to come home.  B.

The Episode Title: "A Hard Man to Find," referencing either Tom or Dickie, but I keep flashing to the Mae West quote, "A hard man is good to find."

Tom's bum and Dickie's dick, plus some of Johnny Flynn and Bokeem Woodbine, on RG Beefcake and Boyfriends

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