Directed by: Bennet Miller
Premise: A dramatization of Truman Capote’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) ordeal in writing In Cold Blood.
What Works: Hoffman’s performance as Capote is incredible. It is one of those rare biopics, like Charlize Theron in Monster or Jim Carrey in Man on the Moon, where a recognizable star is cast and then disappears into the role. Capote is primarily a character study of the author and it portrays him in an empathetic but brutal light. The film centers on the relationship between Capote and Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and on Capote’s decent into depression he is slowly poisoned by the subject matter of his book. Collins’ portrayal of the killer strikes the kind of balance that Capote is attempting: simultaneously creating empathy for the man but not excusing his crimes. The same is done with Hoffman’s portrayal of Capote and the story carefully structures and intertwines the destruction of the two men, one physically and the other mentally.
What Doesn’t: The film limits itself to Capote and does not explore the world around him very much. Bruce Greenwood is underused as Jack Dunphy, Smith’s murder accomplice. While it may have been tangential to Capote’s descent into depression, Greenwood’s character would have opened up new possibilities.
Bottom Line: Capote is a great film about writing and the effects of nonfiction writing on its author. The focus of the film may be limited, but in the space that the film does cover, it is an excellent portrayal of a man and his work.
Episode: #80 (January 8, 2006)