TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: So far, so good - but Mr. Ripley’s gonna need talented pros soon

While the box office has been dominated by films aimed at an audience on its first set of teeth (Pokemon: The First Movie, Toy Story 2), the holiday season holds an abundance of features aimed at an older, more cerebral audience (and Oscar voters). Among the films cluttering must-see lists are The Green Mile and Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to Boogie Nights.

While the box office has been dominated by films aimed at an audience on its first set of teeth (Pokemon: The First Movie, Toy Story 2), the holiday season holds an abundance of features aimed at an older, more cerebral audience (and Oscar voters). Among the films cluttering must-see lists are The Green Mile and Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to Boogie Nights.

While the box office has been dominated by films aimed at an

audience on its first set of teeth (Pokemon: The First Movie, Toy Story

2), the holiday season holds an abundance of features aimed at an older,

more cerebral audience (and Oscar voters). Among the films cluttering

must-see lists are The Green Mile and Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson’s

follow-up to Boogie Nights.



But the film that seems to be garnering the lion’s share of pre-release

buzz is the adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr.

Ripley.



And no wonder. Written and directed by Anthony Minghella (The English

Patient) and starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett,

Ripley boasts a pedigree that is (Oscar) golden.



The film was cast before Paltrow won her Oscar for Shakespeare in Love,

before Damon hit the big time with Good Will Hunting and before

Blanchett broke out with her Oscar-nominated Elizabeth role. The trio’s

accomplishments highlight the all-out publicity and marketing push by

co-producers Paramount and Miramax.



But even though the movie has done away with some of the book’s noirish

undertones, Ripley does have some PR battles ahead.



In his otherwise glowing profile of the film and its cultural importance

(a stance that will surely be debated) in a recent New York Times

Magazine front-page story, Frank Rich noted the uphill PR battle the

film’s marketers are facing: ’To put it bluntly, The Talented Mr. Ripley

will not be 1999’s most popular movie. The studio may well know this:

why else blanket the country with an entertainment this black on

Christmas Day except out of the hope that star power will pull in an

audience before there’s time for too much backlash over its creepiness,

its violence, its homoerotic sexuality and its defiance of the moral

closure usually provided by big-budget Hollywood entertainments?’



Talk of the dark undertones, however, hasn’t stopped the widespread

coverage and press-courting Miramax and Paramount have been engaged in

for several weeks on both coasts. The two studios even took the unusual

step of showing a rough print of the film to some long-lead press.



In the film, Damon takes on a character that many of the audience will

find downright revolting. Moreover, the homoerotic aspects have both

studios worried that negative word-of-mouth might keep men away from the

film after its first weekend.



The two marketing teams have to be commended for the early buzz they’ve

created, mainly by selling the accessible and attractive cast. But

viewers beware - as one of the film’s taglines touts, ’Secrets are

revealed in the lines of correspondence.’



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