Publicity Stills of "Capote"
(Courtesy from United Artists/Sony Pictures
Classics, all rights reserved.)

Photos by Attila Dory

Photos by Attila Dory

Photos by Attila Dory

Photos by Attila Dory

Genre: Biography/Drama
Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr, Mark Pellegrino, Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Amy Ryan
RunTime: 1 hr 55 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: NC-16
Official Website: http:/www.sonyclassics.com

Opening Day: 23 Feb 2006


When the murder of a family in Kansas captures the interest of celebrated writer Truman Capote, he travels to their small hometown to research what will become his best-known book. As the details of the crime unfold and the two killers are captured and tried, Capote's involvement with the case becomes both morally ambivalent and deeply personal.

Movie Review:

We've seen plenty of Hollywood bio-pics in the last 2 years like The Aviator, Ray, Walk the Line, and now Capote. Biographies make compelling storytelling, especially if the person in question has a flamboyant lifestyle, or have lived a life more than ordinary, triumphantly overcoming personal struggles.

Perhaps that's what stereotyped the expectations of such movies, and it does make you pay attention when they become major award nominees or winners. Unfortunately, while Capote boasts Academy Award nominations (at this time of writing), the material presented was nothing to shout about. Again, expectations skew your thoughts towards having at least an extended time frame to cover the life of the person. Capote the film takes a look at the years it took for one of America's greatest writers, Truman Capote, to develop his last completed novel, In Cold

Through the book, Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) found a new genre in which to challenge himself with, and that's the "non-fiction novel". The brutal murder of a family in 1959 made him take notice and to base his book upon. He embarks on a quest to research for material extensively, with his numerous road trips with fellow writer Harper Lee (author of To Kill A Mockingbird, played by Catherine Keener) to interview everyone connected with the killings, from the police to the citizens of the town. He leaves no stone unturned, and even opens the caskets of the victims, trying to make sense of the brutality of it all.

However, in order to delve more into the psyche of the murderers, Capote befriends one of them, Perry Smith (an commendable performance by Clifton Collins Jr), and tries hard to coax him into telling what exactly happened that faithful night. Much of the second half of the movie tries to play the two characters off each other, and it's a tad interesting to see how Capote manipulates and lies without batting an eyelid. However, much can be said about who's actually pulling the strings to get the upper hand.

Give Seymour his Oscar. His performance as Capote is brilliant, and on his acting alone, he's able to shoulder the weight of the entire movie, nevermind the very bland narrative. You can feel through Seymour, what Capote must have felt in his dealings for his research, and how he actively seeks to have things go his way. Catherine Keener, on the other hand, doesn't shine much as Harper Lee, a supporting character, but a rather ordinary role with little screen time except to light some cigarettes. A very under-developed role, and didn't live up to the greatness of that literary name.

Maybe it's so that she'll not steal the thunder from the protagonist, though I won't find it surprising that local audiences might be more familiar with Harper Lee than with Truman Capote, even though the latter wrote the novel Breakfast at Tiffany's which the Audrey Hepburn movie was based upon. The pacing of Capote is even and flat through most parts, and it is only near the end do things start to pick up with revelations and closure that might make the audience sit up, especially the bit on capital punishment which has always found a sore spot in local debates.

In short, you'd give this film a watch to see what the fuss is about with Seymour's performance. Sit through the movie with this expectation, you'll turn out all right and satisfied. If you're expecting this movie to have the usual Hollywood feel to biographic dramas, then you might end up being a little short-changed.

Movie Rating:

(Philip Seymour Hoffman shines as Truman Capote in an ordinary biopic of one of America's greatest writers)

Review by Stefan Shih

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