The Ripley effect: Damon takes in the beach.
photo: Phil Bray
The Ripley effect: Damon takes in the beach.

Details

The Talented Mr. Ripley
Written and directed by Anthony Minghella,
based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith
A Paramount release

Angela's Ashes
Directed by Alan Parker
Written by Laura Jones and Alan Parker,
based on the memoir by Frank McCourt A Paramount release

** If Minghella ratchets up the Grand Guignol aspect of Ripley (by the end, it's like you're watching the Andrew Cunanan story), Alan Parker mutes Frank McCourt's riotous and extremely moving autobiographical account of a destitute childhood in Ireland. Parker is not a director to scant on body fluids, and his adaptation of Angela's Ashes is awash in chamber-pot overflows and outhouse leakages. But for all the grungy detail, the film is far too tidy and polite. I don't have the emotional attachment to McCourt's writing that I do to Highsmith's, but most readers will miss the irrepressible gallows humor of the original, not to mention its vivid real-life characters. As Frank's long-suffering mom and charming but irresponsible alcoholic dad, Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle do what they can with the sketchy script. Parker seems to feel obliged to visit as many of the novel's scenes as possible in a 145-minute movie (a modest length by Christmas 1999 standards) with the result that the film lacks development and dramatic coherence. Frank, who ages 12 years over the course of the film, is played by three young actors, none of them distinguished.

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