Mediocre Mr. Ripley

Upmarket is the extent of his desire.

Netflix’s Ripley begins in 1960s New York, a city emptied of cars, crowds, and color. Sulky nighthawks dribble out of crumbling tenements and asocial whiskey bars, and a hundred failed scams trail behind Tom (Andrew Scott), as he drags himself down Mechanic’s Alley. Before long, however, the setting shifts to the village of Atrani, a faded beauty along the touristic Amalfi Coast with a vertiginous bearing. Su, su, su a postal attendant tells Tom after he inquires about the location of Palazzo Greenleaf, home of his unwitting mark Dickie (Johnny Flynn). We watch Tom clamber up staircase after staircase—in Atrani, in Naples, in Rome—and tire of all the Dutch angles that strive to convey the exceedingly simple message that this swindler is not on the level.

Apart from the gift of knowing how to spend someone else’s money (though how many immoderately priced glass ashtrays does one really need?), Scott’s depleted confidence man isn’t especially talented. He’s a crook who barely feigns being straight. The impossibility of straightness, of perfectly and universally adheri…

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