Okay, I think by now we can all tell that I've never seen Capote. I was trying to fake this review, just like all of my Battlestar Galactica Reviews and that one for Huff... and that one I did for Six Feet Under! Folks, I-I-I-I don't even have CABLE!
I can't do that to this movie though. No... I'm turning over a new leaf. I'm going to go see Capote right now and report back to you folks.
Three Hours Later... ([Counting Drive Time!])!
Seriously, Capote was a very impressive movie, surprisingly well-rounded and pulling no punches in its frankness. Everyone (well, most everyone) has an idea who Truman Capote was, and what his accomplishments were, but few could expect such a deep depiction to appear on screen in 2005.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman brings us our title character in a performance that should be referenced in the Miriam-Webster entry for "acting"! And he's not alone. In a universally excellent cast, Hoffman leads a number of stand-outs from Catherine Keener as Nelle Harper Lee (Yep, yep, yep, yep, Harper "To Kill a Mockingbird" Lee!) to Bruce Greenwood as Truman's lover Jack Dunphy. Of course it takes a cast this good to pull off a movie this complex. Starting with the murders that led to the "Nonfiction Novel" In Cold Blood, Hoffman brings us through years of research and interviews that display fully formed the Capote no one in the 60's knew. Is this man desperate for the best story he can possibly tell? Is he trying to tell the full-fledged truth? Is he a caring friend? Is he the most selfish individual on the pock-marked face of the planet.
The answer... is yes. And that's the complexity of Capote! Observe...
Two young men kill an entire family (Defeo-style) in small-town Kansas one night, and Capote decides this is the story he wants to write about. Once he and Harper Lee charm their way into the life of Kansas Lawman Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), it's an almost easy ride into the lives of the killers, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino).
Capote's unassuming and feminine simplicity, not to mention intelligence and charm, are used in full force to open virtually any door in his quest to get the story that becomes In Cold Blood. Whatever it takes to cozy up to the next chapter, be it a lie, a tear or a name-dropping story, he'll do it. But Hoffman (who also Executive Produced) and director Bennett Miller never really ask you to like Capote. In one scene he may tell the audience the truth, and in the next, tell a trusting character the biggest lie since Empire carpeted your home based on the self-same subject. He's a bigger liar than Joe Isuzu, but you might be charmed by the man as well. For all with all, he manages (over the next four years) to get the full story from the mouths of the killers.
While everyone in this film is fantastic, if Hoffman has anyone close to him here it's Collins' remorseful and introspective killer. It's fully worth your time just to see the alone time in that death-row cell. A real bond is formed between Capote and Smith, even as it's clear that Smith is little more than a paycheck to the journalist. Saddest of all, Capote's friends and lovers know it without question. Does Smith figure it out? It's amazing to check out for yourself. Just when it becomes overly touching, one of old "Truman"'s lies makes the audience shake their heads and laugh nervously... but it's all in the name of writing one of the greatest books of all time. He knows it too, and he won't let the audience forget it. Where the film goes from merely great to absolutely fascinating is the point at which Capote's morality catches up with him, and he writhes in his intelligent confusion.
It's really something to see, but could scarcely be this good without the skills of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role. The man is incredible here, fully becoming Truman Capote and shedding every shred of the Hoffman we know from other films. He may be arrogant one moment, charming the next, brutal the next and remorseful the next, but somehow Hoffman makes Capote a consistent character and every change is believable.
The film could survive on the acting alone, as I said, however the directing is superb and balanced and the writing by Dan Futterman (based on the book by Gerald Clarke) is more brutally honest than the True Man himself ever was. Capote is not to be missed, and fully worth the full rating of Five Stars. There is most certainly cold blood here, but probably not where you would expect to find it. I do recommend you look however. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to close. See, I've been offered free passes to a special screening of The Sentinel, and I'll be hanging out with the cast afterw-... okay, I'm full of crap again, damn it! Phillip just made it look so easy. See you in the next reel. Truly!
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