Saturday, February 04, 2006

Movie Review: Capote

U.S. Release Date: 9/30/05 (limited)
Running Time: 1:54
Rated: R (Profanity, violence)
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Amy Ryan, Mark Pellegrino, Allie Mickelson

Director: Bennett Miller
Producers: Caroline Baron, Michael Ohoven, William Vince
Screenplay: Dan Futterman, based on the book by Gerald Clarke
Music: Mychael Danna
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics


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Single-handedly, Capote can be set apart from In Cold Blood by its earnest depiction of an author who loves only himself and his writing. While Truman Capote has been labeled one of America’s finest authors, through this motion-picture exploration, we learn that his self-absorption in the source material resulted in him rotting from the inside out. Written by Dan Futterman, based on the book by Gerald Clarke, Capote is a deep character study – highlighted by a virtuoso lead – that rocks you to the core.

The film begins in 1959, when Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) spies an article concerning a senseless murder of a family of four in Halcomb, Kansas. After gaining approval from his editor (Bob Balaban), Capote decides to travel to Halcomb with his female friend, Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), who is in the process of publishing her book To Kill a Mockingbird. Once in Kansas, Capote sets out to investigate the effects of the murders on the town and write an article for The New Yorker magazine on the subject matter. Yet, after Capote speaks with the town police chief (Chris Cooper) and the two killers Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino), he decides to write a “non-fiction novel,” entitled In Cold Blood, on his research.

Over the next few years of interviewing and writing, Capote bonds with Perry and begins to feel pity for him. Capote’s partner, Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood), becomes suspicious of their relationship, but Capote reassures that their relationship is strictly professional. After initially offering to assist Perry and Dick in their attempts to appeal, Capote becomes lax in wanting to help the pair and seeks closure in their eventual hangings.

Without Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote would not be near the same. His eccentric and effeminate portrayal of the author is borderline brilliant and carries the overall production. Hoffman has gone long overdue for any official recognition of his abilities; view his prior work in any P. T. Anderson film to confirm how underrated of an actor he is. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, P.S.H. earned his Best Actor statue for 2005.

In support, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., and Chris Cooper all perform well, but none outshine Hoffman or really achieve anything nominee-worthy. On the other hand, with these fine supporting actors, Capote is centered on its characters’ interactions and behavior, not plot. That is what makes this film such a shooting-star among a dark night’s sky. Just when you think the film is about Truman Capote writing a book, it is about the inner turmoil that the narcissistic author goes through to change the face of non-fiction and write his life-defining and life-crippling opus. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2006