Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The First 15 Minutes Project #11: Tom Ripley

Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley

  1. Flashforward: Tom, looking distraught but handsome, staring blankly ahead, sits in a rolling boat cabin while the titles chop up his face. VO: “If I could just go back. If I could rub everything out, starting with myself. Starting with borrowing a jacket…”
  2. Flashback: a rooftop garden in NYC overlooking Central Park. Tom, looking much geekier, wears a crested Yale blazer, plays classical piano while a vocalist sings. Mr. Greenleaf comes over with his wife and asks if they knew his son at Yale. He says “How is Dickey?” They complain to him “Dickey’s idea of music is jazz.” They say good-bye: I’ll see you at the shipyard.
  3. He runs to return the jacket to the singer’s boyfriend, who has a broken wrist.
  4. Tom works in the bathroom in the basement of an opera building brushing dandruff off people’s shoulders for spare change, wearing a uniform.
  5. He sneaks a peek at the performance by peeking through the curtains of an opera box, but the box patron turns and scowls, so he closes the curtain.
  6. After the theater is closed, Tom plays the grand piano on the stage, but the electrician shuts off the lights. Tom apologizes.
  7. At Mr. Greenleaf’s shipyard, Mr. Greenleaf says “You’ve probably heard that Dickey’s been living in Italy. Mongibello. South of Naples. No kind of place at all. Marge his young lady is supposedly writing some kind of book. God know what he does. His talent is spending his allowance.” He offers to pay Tom a thousand dollars to go to Europe and reclaim Dickey.
  8. In his basement apartment, Tom learns jazz by blindfolding himself, pulling records off a pile and playing them until he can guess who’s singing each one. He listens to Chet Baker singing My Funny Valentine and says “I don’t even know if this is a man or a woman.” He hears domestic violence upstairs. He looks at a Yale yearbook he’s acquired and the picture of Dickey.
  9. He climbs up out of his apartment to the limo picking him up. Opens his ticket for the Cunard line.
  10. In Italy, he meets an heiress named Meredith who flirts with him in the customs line. He introduces himself as Dickey Greenleaf. “One of the shipping Greenleafs?” “Trying not to be”. She points out that his luggage was under R. He says he travels under his mother’s name. She says that so is she. She’s really a Loag. “Of the…” “Yes, the shipping Loags. We’re partners in disguise.” She’s pulled away.
  11. Tom arrives in Mongibello, a picturesque shipping town.
  12. Tom reads from an Italian phrase book while he watches Dickey and Marge with binoculars. They dive off their boat, named Bird and swim to the beach. While he looks at Dickey, he says “This is my face”, then checks the book and learns how to say that in Italian.
  13. He puts on day-glo swim trunks and runs past them into the sea, then walks back past them. He turns to them and says “Dickey Greenleaf. It’s Tom. Tom Ripley.” “Did we know each other?” “Well, I knew you, so you must have known me.” “Princeton’s like a fog. America’s like a fog.” Dickey introduces him to Marge. “You’re so white!” “It’s just an undercoat.” Marge gets the joke but Dickey doesn’t. Marge says you should come and have lunch with us, anytime. Tom leaves. Dickey repeats that he doesn’t remember him.
  14. Tom walks down the street, Dickey drives past him on his vespa, picks up a local on the street.
  15. Marge is in her backyard. Dickey shows up, apologizes for being late. Tells a lie about fishing. She says “We ate everything without you. Tom Ripley’s here.” Marge says “Tom was telling me about his journey over. Made me laugh so hard I almost got a nosebleed.” Dickey asks if Tom makes martinis. He hesitates. Marge says she’ll make them. Dickey says her martinis are great. Everybody should have one great talent. He asks what Tom’s is. Tom says “forging signatures, telling lies, impersonating practically anybody.” Dickey tells him to do an impression. Tom imitates Dickey’s father, which amazes Dickey. How do you know him? “I met him in New York.” “Could you ever conceive of going to Italy, Tom, and bringing him back?” Dickey is shocked.
  16. They walk through the street, pass a wedding, Dickey touches the cheep of the girl he was flirting with. Dickey says that he’ll never go back.

If Boyle in Salvador is the asshole-truth teller, then Ripley is the flip side: the sociopathic liar. Each character type has its appeal. There’s something very thrilling about watching a character juggle lies: Every other character is fooled but we in the audience see all and know all, making us the liar’s intimate co-conspirator. We can’t help but admire the liar’s dexterity, and we develop a gleeful anticipation every time it he has to wriggle out of another trap.
And yet, the audacious moment we admire most is when he dares to unexpectedly tell the truth: He suddenly admits to Tom the real reason that he’s there. They now feel the same intimacy we do: a liar has chosen to trust them, which is deeply flattering, at first...

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