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Capote Movie Poster


Genre: Biography/Drama
Rated: R
Directed by
: Bennett Miller
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins, Jr., Chris Cooper, Amy Ryan
Released by: Sony Classics

In Short: Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a consuming performance as Truman Capote, done up and then undone by his most famous work.

"Tru" to Life
Capote and the Crime in Kansas

By Andrew Bender

Wheat fields. Snow. Barn. Farmhouse. Dead body in the bedroom.

ut to a New York soirée awash in cocktails and cigarettes, where Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) preens, charms and holds court, ever the bon vivant. But Capote also has a serious side, and he is drawn to the Kansas farming town where the four members of the Clutter family were murdered, to write about the incident’s effects on the community. The result became the seminal true-crime novel In Cold Blood, perhaps Capote’s most famous work.

Hoffman is always an engrossing actor, but here he’s outdone himself. A grisly farm town murder might seem an odd subject for the author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a mincing Alabaman with a voice that never leaves the upper register, gone so thoroughly New York that he pointedly announces the provenance of his scarf (Bergdorf’s). Yet Capote finds communion in this community, and, surprisingly, with one of the two murderers; Perry Smith and Capote share an artistic sensibility. It is this relationship—and its demise when Smith is put to death—that leads Capote to a debilitating depression.

The cast provides a fine foil for Hoffman’s Capote. Catherine Keener is proving to be one of America’s most versatile actresses; here she plays Capote’s traveling companion and confidante Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird). Chris Cooper and Amy Ryan are well matched as the Kansas sheriff and his wife, and Clifton Collins Jr. as Smith sure knows how to humanize a murderer.

If there’s any fault with the film, it is that the pacing tends to drag, especially toward the middle. At times it is filmmaking of the piercing glance and the pregnant pause, but somehow this feels writerly, and it’s hard for us to argue with the choice.

(Updated: 01/21/08 NJ)

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