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.
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.’