If it weren’t for the wardrobe, we might not remember The Talented Mr. Ripley. The Matt Damon, Jude Law vehicle was well-received at the time but suffers in terms of historical memory because it was released in a particularly strong year for cinema. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, but narrowly missed a Best Picture nomination with a crowded field that included American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, and The Cider House Rules. 1999 was also the year that Spike Jonze and M. Night Shyamalan broke into the public consciousness. In recent years, however, the film has been given a favorable critical examination, largely because of its wardrobe.

At its core, Anthony Minghella’s film is about passing for someone you’re not. This is explored in a number of ways—socially, economically and sexually. But, the central conflict of the film, between Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) and Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) this theme is perhaps best examined through fashion. Specifically, Tom clearly wants to be Dickie, and part of that is his deep envy of Dickie’s style. Ultimately, Tom assumes Dickie’s identity, but can never quite ape his unique presence (or, in this context, “look”). At face value, the film serves as a primer on breezy mid-century Italian style. However, the film incidentally shows how to build a personal style that can’t quite be replicated, as well as a thematic examination of how personal style can expose a man’s broader personality.

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