by Tony Medley
a movie so slow I couldn’t even fall asleep. Instead of a biopic of Truman
Capote, which could have been interesting, it’s just another retelling of
“In Cold Blood,” this time from the viewpoint of the author, Truman Capote
(Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Hoffman gives a good impersonation of the odd Capote. He looks and sounds
exactly like Truman, a performance to rival Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. By
the time of Capote’s death in 1984, he had become a parody of himself. He
was a popular guest on talk shows because he was so bizarre and he did and
said outrageous things. Hoffman’s performance is really the only interest
this film brings to the table.
wrote one book, “In Cold Blood,” that was pretty good (some think it’s a
classic) and invented the prostitute Holly Golightly in his short 1958
novel, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Critics loved him, but the reason he was
an A-List celebrity wasn’t because everyone was rushing out to buy
everything he wrote. The reason he was on the A-List was because he had a
lot of celebrity friends and he was a flamboyantly outrageous raconteur.
at the outset Truman finds the article in the New York Times that led him
to Kansas and Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.), the brutal killer who was
the star of Capote’s non-fiction novel. He convinces The New Yorker’s
William Shawn (Bob Balaban) to underwrite a magazine article and send him
to Kansas to do the research. Accompanied by his childhood friend as his
assistant, Harper Lee (Catherine Keener, in a strong performance), who was
shortly to publish her bestseller “To Kill a Mockingbird,” after arriving
Capote’s magazine article quickly turns into a book.
film honestly examines Capote’s ruthlessness in getting the information
for his book. He constantly lies to and misleads Smith, getting him to
think of Capote as his friend and savior, even though Capote is writing
something quite different than Smith imagines. Capote would do anything
for a story. I remember when his high society friends, like Babe Paley,
wife of CBS major domo William Paley, were outraged to find that they had
been the unwitting subjects for his planned, but never completed, novel
“Answered Prayers.” Said he, “What did they imagine? I’m a writer,”
implying that everything he learned was grist for his mill and trumped
loyalty and discretion. That attitude, that cost him many of his patrician
friends, is displayed here in spades.
worst part of this movie, other than it’s glacial pace, is the sympathetic
portrayal of the killers and how it ignores the victims, a family of four
slaughtered mercilessly by Smith and his partner, Dick Hickock (Mark
Pellegrino). By concentrating on the killers and ignoring the victims it
appears that the movie is presenting the position that the execution of
these brutal killers was inhuman and not justified. In fact, Smith is
presented more as victim than brutal killer because he is a soft-spoken
person who trusts and forgives Capote, and faces death without apparent
fear. Truman, on the other hand, manipulates him mercilessly in order to
get the material he needs for the book.
fact, Smith was no victim. This film would have been much more
praiseworthy and accurate had it shown the viciousness of Smith’s crime
and emphasized what he did to his innocent, sweet victims instead of
minimizing it in a short flashback. We never get to meet the victims or
live through the horror he caused. But that would be too much to ask for
Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman. After all, they
only had one hour fifty minutes and they had to show Truman and Smith
thinking a lot, didn’t they? Had they devoted a little time to the victims
and the actual crime, the movie might have had some pace. But, then, that
would have caused their audience to leave the theater thinking that Smith
and Hickock got what they deserved. Heaven forbid!
90-minute biopic about how Capote came to be prominent, his relationships
with the glitterati, and his descent into drug-crazed late night TV guest
after being abandoned by his erstwhile friends would have been far more
interesting than this 110-minute plodder about the short period of his
life he spent writing his most famous book, despite Hoffman’s performance.
September 13, 2005