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The Talented Mr. Ripley Scene That's More Important Than You Think

"The Talented Mr. Ripley" captures obsession and impersonation as well as any film. The 1999 movie, which starred Matt Damon, Jude Law, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Gwyneth Paltrow, sees Damon's con artist Tom Ripley contracted by Dickie Greenleaf's (Law) parents to travel to Italy and convince Dickie to return to the United States. Of course, Tom does not actually know Dickie — but he doesn't let that on until it's too late.

Over the course of the film, Tom befriends Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (Paltrow) in Italy under the guise that they attended Princeton at the same time. Damon's character grows obsessed with Dickie's lavish lifestyle and reacts harshly when Dickie grows tired of their friendship and suspicious of Tom's intentions.

The Anthony Minghella written-and-directed film is well-liked across the board. According to Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of critics and 80% of audiences enjoyed the thriller, which eventually sees Tom Ripley kill Dickie Greenleaf and attempt to fully assume his identity, to deadly results.

While the film's tone and mise-en-scene exude luxury and the high-class lifestyle that Dickie leads in Italy, it's also full of small character details that are worth noting during a rewatch. One particular scene early in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" gives away Tom's nefarious intentions well before the movie kicks into high gear.

Tom Ripley wearing Dickie Greenleaf's clothes foreshadows his full impersonation

In the second act of "The Talented Mr. Ripley," Dickie Greenleaf travels to Rome, leaving Tom Ripley behind in Mongibello, where he has been spending most of his time. Upon Dickie's return, he catches Tom in his bedroom, dancing and singing in front of a mirror while trying on Dickie's expensive clothing.

"What are you doing?" an incredulous Dickie asks Tom, who hides behind the mirror, apologizing and explaining that he was "just amusing [himself]." In an analysis for JumpCut Online, critic Fiona Underhill pointed out some of the scene's subtle details — starting with the sculpture in Dickie's room. "Tom hides behind a full-length mirror and Ripley's reflection, with a look of horror and disgust on his face, can be seen in it," Underhill wrote. "Next to the mirror is a sculpture of a classical torso (probably designed using the golden ratio) – another example of the perfection that Ripley cannot attain."

As further explained, mirrors and reflections play a large role in "The Talented Mr. Ripley"'s visual language. In this scene, Tom is hidden behind a mirror, save for his head. When Dickie appears in the mirror, the audience sees Tom's head above Dickie's body, reflecting on the life Tom has decided he wants to lead — by any means necessary.