Page 4 of 5
Tom eagerly agrees to Greenleaf's plan and travels to Europe, whereupon he begins to show himself quite insane. A genius at ingratiating himself into the graces of the unsuspecting, he slips into Dickie's routine, wedging himself between the young scion, his lover (a fine Gwyneth Paltrow) and anyone else who dares to call Dickie friend. The most worrisome of these threats comes in the person of Philip Seymour Hoffman, giving a terrific performance as a terminally obnoxious fraternity type named Freddie. When Hoffman taunts Ripley with Tommy, Tommy, Tommy in one painful scene, slithering the name around in his mouth, he's at once every bully who's ever terrorized another kid on the playground and the very embodiment of the too-rich, too-soft, too-hateful American. It's clear that the animus between Freddie and Ripley isn't simply jealousy, but has sprung from a fathomless reserve of class hatred and sexual panic. Although he never matches the book in either brilliance or sheer perversity, Minghella has remained essentially true to his source. Highsmith's genius is both in the way she nimbly ranges across the story's malignant moral landscape and in the way that she peels away at Ripley as if she were lifting his very skin, layer by layer. What's shocking isn't that Ripley may be mad, even a murderer, but that he's also unsettlingly, undeniably sympathetic. What's startling is that Minghella agrees.
Shakespeare was 30 when he wrote Titus Andronicus, and quite apart from bristling with the sort of gruesomely inventive, melodramatic bloodshed one associates with our own first-time filmmakers, it vividly prefigures the themes and characters of the Bard's mature tragedies. Before she became better known for taking Disney's The Lion King to Broadway, theater director Julie Taymor made her reputation mounting Titus onstage, using abstract, surrealist masks of her own brilliant design. Now -- The Lion King's clout having paved the way -- she translates her vision to film (her first, a terrific debut), mixing masks, ancient ruins and modern high-rises to complement the fiery, disobedient spirit that marked early Shakespeare. Anthony Hopkins is Titus, the victorious Roman general who snubs the people's offer to make him emperor -- a cavalier gesture that costs him dearly. The queen of the Goths -- whom Titus wronged when she was his captive -- is suddenly raised to the station of Roman empress, and Jessica Lange enacts this avenger with every ounce of fury and beauty in her arsenal. The theme that power, justly earned, should never be shrugged off foretells Lear. Taymor has done an inspired job of resurrecting one of Shakespeare's unruliest works, just in time for the new century.
ANGELA'S ASHES | Directed by ALAN PARKER | Written by PARKER and LAURA JONES | Based on the book by FRANK McCOURT | Produced by DAVID BROWN, PARKER and SCOTT RUDIN | Released by Paramount Pictures | At Cineplex Beverly Center, AMC Century 14, Mann Criterion
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY | Directed by OLIVER STONE | Written by STONE and JOHN LOGAN Produced by LAUREN SHULER DONNER, CLAYTON TOWNSEND and DAN HALSTED | Released by Warner Bros. | Citywide
GALAXY QUEST | Directed by DEAN PARISOT | Written by DAVID HOWARD and ROBERT GORDON | Produced by MARK JOHNSON and CHARLES NEWIRTH Distributed by DreamWorks | Citywide
GIRL, INTERRUPTED | Directed by JAMES MANGOLD Written by MANGOLD, LISA LOOMER and ANNA HAMILTON PHELAN | Based on the book by SUSANNA KAYSEN Produced by CATHY KONRAD and DOUGLAS WICK Released by Columbia Pictures | At selected theaters
MAN ON THE MOON | Directed by MILOS FORMAN Written by SCOTT ALEXANDER and LARRY KARASZEWSKI | Produced by DANNY DeVITO, MICHAEL SHAMBERG and STACEY SHER | Released by Universal Pictures | Citywide
PLAY IT TO THE BONE | Written and directed by RON SHELTON | Produced by STEPHEN CHIN Released by Buena Vista Pictures | At the UA Westwood for a one-week Academy consideration; reopens in January
Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes