a tale of three jackets
Ever asked yourself “what’s the point of clothes? Why don’t I just wear that hessian sack I’ve always wanted to? At least I’ll be comfortable, and hessian is pretty much trans-seasonal”. If so, the answer might well lie in Anthony Minghella’s psycho-thriller The Talented Mr Ripley, which can essentially be boiled down to a tale of three jackets: one to weasel your way into high society, one to hide in plain sight while going about your evil work, and one to assume a whole new identity once you’ve scrapped, conned and clouted your way to the top: clothes 1, hessian sacks 0.
The first, a borrowed navy Princeton club blazer complete with crest gives Matt Damon’s Tom Ripley an entrée into the privileged world of America’s Ivy League. Briefly subbed in as a pianist at a posh roof-top soiree, the disguise allows him to be mistaken for an old friend of rich brat Dickie Greenleaf, played by Jude Law. Once inside that world, he’s thence despatched by Greenleaf Snr to late 50s Italy, tasked with bringing the errant lad home. Returning to his white bathroom attendant’s jacket, we see who he really is; a well-scrubbed nobody, on the make and with designs on the finer things, nevertheless able to easily pass through the invisible wall of class, all courtesy of that borrowed blazer. Who wouldn’t want a jacket like that?
The second is his drab olive corduroy jacket, the ill-fitting go-to garment that he seemingly wears every day, everywhere once he begins insinuating himself into Dickie’s glamorous Italian Riviera life. Purposely refitted by the film’s designers to seem cheap and awkward, Tom’s dowdy blazer is in sharp contrast to Dickie’s beautifully Italian-made counterparts, and illustrates perfectly the difference in their worlds. At one point Dickie seems miffed by the new boy and his limited wardrobe and tells Tom to borrow some of his clothes, casually mentioning they’re “ancient”, but still obviously several stitches above Tom’s staid American tourist garb. Tom likes the cut of this particular jib, and from there the wheels slowly start to turn.
The third is Dickie’s white jacket, seen casually draped over Tom’s shoulders on their return from a boat trip: all that remains now is for Tom to stove Dickie’s head in next time they’re off Sanremo and completely assume his identity along with the rest of his made to measure wardrobe. Job done courtesy of one deftly-wielded oar: with Greenleaf Jnr now sleeping with the fishes the final step is to adequately cover the disappearance to Snr and get fitted for some more beautiful jackets. That sorted, he then sets about running up a tab on Dickie’s dime to keep him in the life to which he has become so comfortably accustomed; bespoke togs and all. Eventually cornered by the necessity of overlapping lies, Tom’s hand is forced into further grave misdeeds, all the while having the time of his life in Rome’s best tailors and luxury stores before fetching up, seemingly checkmated, on a pricey-looking cruise. From the gutter to the stars and back, and all started with one nicely fitted jacket.