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Monday, February 20, 2006

Capote (2005)

Like its titular character, "Capote" is small but extremely compelling to watch. The film recounts the brutal murder of a family in rural Kansas, the men who went on trial and the writer, Truman Capote, who became obsessed with the case. At first Capote simply wants to write a story for the New Yorker about the small town's reaction to the killings. As he gets to know the people in the town and the killers themselves, however, he decides to write a book. The book, which he titles "In Cold Blood," is anticipated as the greatest nonfiction book of the decade. He uses the murderers, particulary Perry Smith, for inside information, promising to help them get an appeal. Eventually, however, Capote must choose between the people in his book and the book itself. In his quest to eloquently convey the human condition, Capote loses his own humanity.
Before he went on trial for murdering his wife, Robert Blake starred as Perry Smith in the 1967 version of In Cold Blood. That film was pretty much a masterpiece in its own small way; "Capote" wisely avoids inevitable comparisons by being very different in both style and theme. "Capote" is a good looking film (although there's only so much a cinematographer can do with Kansas). The strength of the film lies in its performances. Catherine Keener is great as fellow writer Harper Lee, and Bruce Greenwood is dependable as always in his turn as Capote's partner Jack. The real phenomenon here is Hoffman, whose portrayal of Capote is positively uncanny. He could have easily presented Capote as a caricature--Capote himself often came off as a caricature. Instead, however, he gives us a sensitive, deeply troubled artist with a whole wagon train of baggage. Yet his performance never comes across as overdone or melodramatic. I'm rooting for him on Oscar night.

Amount of money I'd pay to see this movie: $6

Directed by Bennett Miller
Written by Dan Futterman (screenplay) Gerald Clarke (book)
Rated R for some violent images and brief strong language.
Runtime: 98 min / Canada:110 min (Toronto International Film Festival)