The Talented Mr. Ripley Book vs Movie Review

written by Laura J.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

The Talented Mr. Ripley directed Anthony Minghella (1999)

Last year I did a Cold Mountain book vs movie which is also directed by Minghella and has Jude Law and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is also the third Highsmith book vs movie episode I have done! I have a video for Deep Water movie (which is my favorite Highsmith book so far) and Carol book vs movie.

Book review

Highsmith isn’t a favorite author of mine, and even though I like her books I never find myself getting fully immersed in them. I was the most invested in Deep Water and as I said that one is definitely my favorite and I would recommend it. Ripley though I found interesting, but it was lacking the suspense I think it needed. Tom Ripley is a fascinating character so that helped me keep interest. Throughout the book though is seemed like things happened too easily for Tom and I kept waiting for his actions to catch up to him but that never happens.

Movie review

I had watched this movie over ten years ago, but honestly the main thing I remember is the line when Tom tells Marge that he loved her and says she should write it on a piece of paper, put it in her purse, and pull it out and read it when there’s a rainy day. I had not remembered how amazing this movie is! The performances are all spectacular, it is full of suspense (unlike the book), and Tom is more sympathetic here as well. He still is a messed-up person, but in some ways he is the one the audience could relate to and despite the bad things he has done, there was part of me that wanted to see him get a happy ending.

At the 2000 Academy Awards Jude Law was nominated for his performance, which was earned. But how the heck did Matt Damon not get a nomination?!? He was incredible in this!

I would highly recommend this movie! It is included with a prime membership, so it is definitely worth watching!

From here on out there will be spoilers for both the book and movie!

Tom Ripley

In both, Mr. Greenleaf meets Tom in New York and asks him to go to Italy and convince his son, Dickie Greenleaf, to come home. In the movie, Tom borrows a Princeton jacket from someone, and Mr. Greenleaf assumes he knows Dickie, who also attended Princeton. Even though Tom and Dickie have never met, Tom goes along with the fathers’ assumptions.

In the book, he actually had met Dickie but they didn’t know each other very well. Someone else who knew they two knew each other, recommended to Mr. Greenleaf that he ask Tom to help him out.

In the book we learn more about Tom’s up bringing and how he was raised by his aunt, a woman he doesn’t like, but stays in contact with because she sends him money. When he goes to Europe, he writes to her about his travels and doesn’t give her an address since he doesn’t know yet where he is staying and he is relieved to cut ties with her. We get a story about how once they were in stop and go traffic and Tom had gotten out of the car for some reason, and when he was trying to get back in, she kept moving forward as he tried to reach the doorhandle and this made him so upset, he was on the verge of tears. When she finally let him in, she said he was a sissy, just like his father.

Dickie

In both, Tom makes like he accidently runs into Dickie and Marge while they are on the beach. In the book, Dickie warms up to Tom whereas Marge is cool towards him the whole time. In the movie, Dickie and Tom become friends, and Marge seems to like Tom and sympathizes with him.

In the movie especially I think most people can relate to Tom’s position. Dickie, Marge, and later Freddie are all rich people and Tom is trying to fit in with them. But he stands out by how he dresses, he doesn’t ski or sail, and he cares more about things whereas the rich people don’t really care because if something breaks, they just get a new one. When Dickie is talking about getting his place in Italy, he says he sailed out to look at the coast and when he saw what he wanted he got it. In general, Dickie just isn’t very likeable because he is this spoiled, prescience’s rich kid.

In the movie, there is an Italian woman Dickie is sleeping with and she ends up committing suicide. Dickie is upset and reveals to Tom she had been pregnant and asked him for help but he turned her away. This isn’t in the book at all.

Marge

In the movie, Marge and Dickie are romantically involved, but Dickie is still sleeping around. Prior to Dickie’s death, he and Marge even had plans to be married. In the book, Marge and Dickie are platonic friends though Marge seems to be in love with Dickie.

In the book, when Dickie catches Tom in his clothing, he gets upset and asks Tom if he is gay, because Marge suspects he is. Tom of course denies it. Later, Marge writes to Dickie (who at this point is dead) and tells him she wishes he would have just come out and said he and Tom were lovers rather than deny it. Since Tom claims to be with Dickie in Rome, she suspects this is the case.

None of this is in the movie. I thought there would be a scene when Dickie confronts Tom about being gay, saying Freddie speculated he was, but it never happened. Dickie seems bisexual in the movie and I almost wondered if Freddie was gay as well. It’s hard to say though, maybe he just liked being around Dickie in a platonic way.

Killing Dickie

In the book, Dickie and Tom are together in a different city and they rent a boat. In the book, Tom had been trying to figure out the best way to kill Dickie and decides on this boat is the way to do it. Once they are out there, he hits Dickie with the oar until he dies.

In the movie, it was more a crime of passion. Dickie tells Tom he is going to marry Marge, Tom gets a bit worked up about it, and Dickie insults Tom saying he is a leech, he is boring, and earlier he confronted Tom about how he didn’t actually go to Princeton and he was lying about liking jazz. He had also basically told Tom he didn’t want him around anymore, and is very condescending when he says Tom can’t afford to stay in Europe in more now that Dickie’s dad has stopped sending him money since his mission to get Dickie back home had failed.

Tom calls Dickie out on denying he had feelings for Tom, and as Dickie is saying mean things, Tom hits him with the oar. At first Tom is sorry and tries to help Dickie, but Dickie attacks him and so Tom ends up hitting him again until he dies.

Being Dickie

In the movie, when he arrives in Europe, he meets a woman named Meredith and for no particular reason, just deides to tell her he is Dickie Greenleaf.

In the book, he doesn’t pretend to be Dickie until after he has killed him.

But in both, he is able to get money by forging Dickie’s signature and he also wear two rings that Dickie never took off. He was already good at impersonating people, so it is fairly easy for him to step into this other persona. In the movie he shows Dickie his impersonating skills by pretending to be Dickie’s father which is a very eerie scene.

In the movie, he runs into Meredith while he is pretending to be Dickie, and the two of them start spending time together. Meredith is not in the book at all though.

Freddie

In both, Freddie is a friend of Dickie’s who Tom doesn’t like and Freddie doesn’t much like Tom (especially in the movie).

In both, he shows up to “Dickie’s” home and Tom is there. Tom claims Dickie is out, but Freddie says the landlady said he was home. They have a tense exchange, and Freddie leaves. However, he runs into the landlady and tells her Dickie wasn’t home, but she insists he is.

When Freddie comes back inside, Tom hits him in the head and kills him. He then waits until dark and drives his body a way away where he dumps it. He expects it to take a while for it to be found, but the next day it is in the papers.

Tom is questioned by the police (they think they are questioning Dickie) and soon after Tom goes back to being himself. When he is still pretending to be Dickie in the movie, he is at the opera with Meredith when he sees Marge and her friend Peter there. He plans to meet them as well as Meredith at a café in the morning. He doesn’t show up to see Meredith though and she ends up seeing Marge and Peter. She tells Marge she was with Dickie the previous night and that he will be coming back to her, meanwhile Marge is waiting to meet Tom. After Meredith leaves, Tom shows up to see Marge and Peter. From this point forward he is planning on staying Tom and Dickie is thought to have disappeared. This was a pretty genius move to have Meredith tell Marge she had been with Dickie, because Marge can feel secure that Dickie is alive and hasn’t disappeared and will be coming back to her.

Marge in book vs movie

In the book, Marge started out being distant with Tom; plus, she was just friends with Dickie not engaged. When Dickie disappears, she finds it odd and after Freddie’s death she comes to where Tom is the two of them spend time together along with Mr. Greenleaf as they try to figure out what has happened. As time goes on, she trusts Tom more. Even when she finds Dickie’s rings with Tom’s things, he explains that he gave them to him and Marge believes him. By the end of the book, they are on good terms and Marge doesn’t suspect anything.

This is the opposite in the movie. Marge liked Tom to start but begins to think something strange is going on. When she finds the rings in the movie, she knows something is wrong and doesn’t trust Tom.

She tries to get Mr. Greenleaf to not believe Tom’s lies, but Mr. Greenleaf is quick to believe what Tom says. By the end of the movie, Marge is leaving, but she lashes out at Tom saying she doesn’t believe him and Mr. Greenleaf has to pull her away.

I liked Marge better in the movie, she knew something fishy was happening and could tell something was off with Tom. In the book she, and basically everyone else, was too gullible and it was so easy for Tom to fool them.

The will/letter

In the movie, Tom writes a letter using Dickie’s typewriter making it seem like he was going to commit suicide, this combined with the rings makes it seem obvious to the police and Mr. Greenleaf, that Dickie killed himself. Based on how close Tom was to Dickie, Mr. Greenleaf decides to give Tom a large portion of Dickie’s inheritance. In the movie, we also hear that in college Dickie beat a man almost to death over a woman. So, they suspect he probably did kill Freddie since he has a history of violence.

In the book, after the investigation, Mr. Greenleaf thinks Dickie has either killed himself, or has gone into hiding and doesn’t want to be found. The investigation is closed and Tom is in the clear. Then, a few months later, Tom claims he has a letter from Dickie that Dickie said not to open until summer. When Tom opens it, it is a will leaving everything to Tom. In the book when Tom goes through with sending this fake will to Mr. Greenleaf, I was like you idiot! You got away with two murders, and now your greed will get you caught because that will is way too suspicious! However, after mailing the will, we read how Tom has gotten bored with how smooth things have been going. He knows that sending the will is a risk, but he wants that excitement in his life and that is part of the reason he sends it-he misses the challenge.

However, Mr. Greenleaf doesn’t find the will suspicious at all and has no hesitation in giving Tom all of Dickie’s money.

Peter

In the book, Peter is a friend Tom makes after he goes back to being Tom after having been Dickie for a while. He is just a minor character who doesn’t seem too important.

In the movie, Tom meets Peter through Marge. Peter and Tom have an instant attraction to each other and even when Marge doesn’t trust Tom, Peter is still into him. It seems his crush on Tom is blinding him to seeing how odd things are at times.

After Marge and Mr. Greenleaf leave, Tom goes on a cruise with Peter and the two of them are having a sweet moment together. Peter then leaves and Tom stays outside to see the sunset. While outside, Meredith shows up, and she thinks he is Dickie. (In the book, Dickie’s disappearance was a hige deal all over Europe, but in the movie is wasn’t so she doesn’t think it strange to see him). She has had the hots for him all along, and when he sees she is with a group of people, he kisses her and says he wants to see more of her.

He then goes to Peter’s room and Peter says he saw him kiss Meredith and he is obviously hurt.

Tom opens up to Peter in a vague way, and then asks Peter to tell him things he likes about Tom. While Peter is listing why he likes Tom, Tom ends up killing him. If Meredith had been alone, I’m sure she is the one he would have killed, but since she thinks he is Dickie, he can’t have both Peter and Meredith interact since they know him as two different people so one of them had to die.

This was such a tragic ending in the movie, we don’t actually see him kill Peter, just hear it as Tom sits alone in his room.

Seeing Tom and Peter’s budding romance and them together on the yacht was so sweet and as manipulative as Tom was, I wanted to see him and Peter get a happy ending.

Some other changes

Just to go through some other changes really quick, in the book Dickie is a painter, but in the movie he plays the saxophone and is into jazz. In both, Dickie is upset when he finds Tom wearing his clothes (in both he had told Tom he could borrow his stuff though) in the movie while wearing Dickie’s clothes Tom is singing and dancing whereas in the book, he has been pretending to strangle Marge who he saw as getting in the way of him and Dickie. There is a scene in the movie when Tom can see Dickie and Marge having sex while on a boat with Freddie and Freddie catches Tom watching them, this wasn’t in the book. The movie also has a scene when Dickie and Tom are playing chess while Dickie is in the tub, but this wasn’t in the book. The scene when Tom gets out of the tub and Marge confronts him about the rings also didn’t play out like that in the book. As said, Marge was quick to believe what Tom claimed in the book. But this scene is when he tells Marge he had loved her and for her to write it down and save it. This is a line I used to quote, so I was disappointed it didn’t come from the book.

Book vs Movie

This movie has some really cool shots, for example when Tom is going back to being Tom, he is shutting the piano lid and his reflection breaks into two as he does so. The chemistry between the different actors is also so perfect and as said, it was so suspenseful, while also having quite a few moments they make you uncomfortable because of the way Tom is being, like just so obvious and uptight at times. But then Freddie and them are also such jerks sometimes and you hate Freddie and Dickie for being so judgemental and embarrased about Tom.

Tom is a great character particularly in the movie because he is unstable, but you also kind of like him and want things to work out for him. You just wish he would stop killing people! In the movie, when in New York we see he is a bathroom attendant which was a nice touch. In the book it seems like he just had random odd jobs, plus the money he got from his aunt.

I’m sure as you can tell, I say the movie wins! The book was a three-star read, so I didn’t dislike it, but the movie is just such an improvement! There are two other Ripley moves, each with a different man playing Tom. There are more books as well, but for Patreon I will be watching the following two movies and reviewing them! I was going to read the books for Patreon, but honestly, I just didn’t like this first one enough to continue on with the series so I’m just going to do the movies.