Daily Archives: December 4, 2005

Capote (2005)

This is a really solid, probing movie about human relationships and the oversized personality of famous author Truman Capote. It’s a very illuminating character piece on its titular star. We see many different facets of his character; part of the connection is because Phillip Seymour Hoffman is so flat-out brilliant in his portrayal of Capote. He’s got that unmistakable nasal voice down, but Hoffman excels at the little things of character, his command of a crowd, his inflections, his physical movements, his ability to look exhausted and pained but embarrassed and prideful at the same time. Capote shows you why everyone wanted to rub elbows with him with how he tells a story and whips up an audience. This is another in the trend of warts-and-all biopics, and you see how calculating he is (he says he never lies). Every confession he offers is manipulative and meant for self-gain, like when he tries to get a witness to talk or get the Kansas P.I. to show him the murder photos. You see how the wheels work within this character. And then Capote shifts as he delves further into the case into his unlikely relationship with Perry Smith. Capote keeps them alive by providing money for their attorneys so he can get more for his book. But there can be only one ending to provide closure to his book — their death. There are several wonderful exchanges of dialogue between Smith and Capote and their quiet, smiling lies they give each other. All we see of Smith is the polite man who draws and read poetry in his jail cell, and the bond growing between him and Capote. The film’s climax eradicates any sympathy built and we see the unpredictable, unmerciful nature of violence. Capote really hammers home the dichotomy of persona, with each side playing the other. The cast is splendid and everyone makes their small roles click, particularly Catherine Keener as novelist Harper Lee and Chris Cooper as the Kansas P.I. What’s even more surprising is that Capote was even better the second time I saw it. There’s so much to find in this excellent character piece.

Nate’s Grade: A

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