CORPORATE LINE: In November, 1959, Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and a favorite figure in what is soon to be known as the Jet Set, reads an article on a back page of the New York Times. It tells of the murders of four members of a well-known farm family—the Clutters—in Holcomb, Kansas. Similar stories appear in newspapers almost every day, but something about this one catches Capote’s eye. It presents an opportunity, he believes, to test his long-held theory that, in the hands of the right writer, non-fiction can be compelling as fiction. What impact have the murders had on that tiny town on the wind-swept plains? With that as his subject—for his purpose, it does not matter if the murderers are never caught—he convinces The New Yorker magazine to give him an assignment and he sets out for Kansas. Accompanying him is a friend from his Alabama childhood: Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), who within a few months will win a Pulitzer Prize and achieve fame of her own as the author of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Though his childlike voice, fey mannerisms and unconventional clothes arouse initial hostility in a part of the country that still thinks of itself as part of the Old West, Capote quickly wins the trust of the locals, most notably Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), the Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent who is leading the hunt for the killers. Caught in Las Vegas, the killers—Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino)—are returned to Kansas, where they are tried, convicted and sentenced to die. Capote visits them in jail. As he gets to know them, he realizes that what he had thought would be a magazine article has grown into a book, a book that could rank with the greatest in modern literature. His subject is now as profound as any an American writer has ever tackled. It is nothing less than the collision of two Americas: the safe, protected country the Clutters knew and the rootless, amoral country inhabited by their killers. Hidden behind Capote’s often frivolous façade is a writer of towering ambition. But even he wonders if he can write the book—the great book—he believes destiny has handed him. “Sometimes, when I think how good it could be,” he writes a friend, “I can hardly breathe.”
THE REVIEW: Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for a reason. His portrait of Capote is amazing. Hoffman portrays the terrible tyrant Capote through all of his emotions and manipulations. Capote got what he wanted by ruthlessly manipulating friend and foe. He used his celebrity to get what he wanted and made paper tiger friendships.
Catherine Keener cannot be forgotten in her portrayal as Harper Lee. She seems to be the only one who knows how to put a leash on Capote. It’s a shame that she falls into the rearview as the film moves towards the close.
Commentary by director Bennett Miller and actor Philip Seymour Hoffman goes more into the person that was Capote while the commentary by director Bennett Miller and cinematographer Adam Kimmel is about the look of the film. They also talk about the town and creating and setting up the scenes.
“Unanswered Prayers” – A documentary on Truman Capote which for some reason is split into two different featurettes. The two behind the scenes documentaries go indepth into the life of Capote and his working on the book.
FRANKLY: One of the most disturbing parts of the story is Capote’s attraction the killer Perry Smith. As a biography Capote is merely a snapshot of his life. It’s not even as much about Capote as it is about the crimes. It is a intermingling of both so it’s neither a biography nor a movie entirely about the crime. Even with a pace that is a step too slow it’s still riveting throughout.
+ Charlie Craine