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Capote (2005 R)
This biographical drama captures the "story behind the story". CAPOTE tells of how one event was destined to change the professional and personal life of novelist Truman Capote after the 1959 Halcomb, Kansas murders. Deciding to adapt material from the event for his next "great" novel, CAPOTE captures Truman's controversial lifestyle and his compelling persona as he attempts to convey the notorious Halcomb tragedy via his subversive literary masterpiece "In Cold Blood". In this deeply introspective film concepts of subjectivity and identity are toyed with via the candid moments between murderer and author that would lead to a breakthrough in the modern non-fiction novel.
Written by: Dan Futterman (screenplay) and Gerald Clarke (book).
Directed by: Bennett Miller.
Genre: Drama, Biography.
“Ever since I was a child, folks have thought they had me
Rated: R for some violent images and brief, strong language.
In 1959 famed novelist Truman Capote, known for his notorious publication “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, learns of the violent murdering of a small-town farm family in Halcomb, Kansas. Inspired, Capote decides to use the “story” as the material for his next novel; the novel would become the best selling “In Cold Blood”. But before a title can be discerned Capote and his childhood friend and research partner, coming-of-celebrity authoress “Nel”-Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) tramp their way through the niches of the Halcomb looking for evidence, witnesses, etc., all the while Capote is compiling material for his novel. Along the way they encounter Sheriff Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper) and his wife. Former close friends of the murdered family, Sheriff Dewey is anything but ready to let the case go quietly. In fact, Sheriff Dewey is quite intent on catching the murderers and personally seeing that his friends’ deaths are avenged. All this Capote learns of course while wining and dining benevolently in the good company of the Dewey household.
All the while Capote enraptures the people of Halcomb and the literary world with his eccentric anecdotes, compelling wit, and his penchant for classy martinis, so too is he to beginning to play the part of Sherlock Holmes, acquiring important “evidence” and “information” for what will be his next, and the great American novel.
A sudden turn of luck brings the murderers, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) to the small town where they will be publicly ostracized and convicted of first degree murder on all four accounts. Removed to the state penitentiary where they will await execution, Capote begins to take a personal interest in the murderers, against the good will and advice of local Halcombers and Dewey.
Meanwhile, Capote’s life-partner, Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood), feels typically ignored, side-stepped, and rejected, attempting to deal with the cold pangs of jealousy while Capote divulges himself in the life story of the more compelling of the two murderers, Perry Smith. Drawn to his silence, his humility, his eyes; the sexually wayward and precocious Capote’s interest in Smith begins to turn more heads than perhaps is best for public appeal. Still, intrigued and involved in Perry’s life story Capote seeks out the affinities between writer and murderer, gathering information and drawing conclusive statements for his novel along the way.
Eventually Capote and Smith build up somewhat of a friendship, becoming “amigos” and confidantes. Capote will save Perry’s life, only to leave him in his cell to save his own and his relationship with . Retreating to Spain to spend time with his thoughts and his partner, Capote finally begins working on his novel, having now discerned the title “In Cold Blood”. As the progress readily unfolds, Capote is asked to conduct a private reading of the current workings of his novel. Always eager to stand in the spotlight, Capote’s chilling new tale is received with grand applause.
Meanwhile his friend Nel too is receiving much deserved critical success and has just been invited to showcase the publication of her subversive novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”. But Capote can’t seem to draw himself into any world other than his own, and/or that of Perry Smith’s, and he half-heartedly makes face and appears at Nel’s big night only to ruin the moment with what appears to be yet another of his pathologically typical moments of self-indulgent tantrums. Silently brooding over the monstrosity of life and humanity, Capote exiles himself from the social realm once so enticing to his aura. Now he is just a lonely, misunderstood, self-confused man trying to write a story about two murderers; one of whom he has grown to admire and love as a friend.
Still, as Perry Smith’s and Richard Hickock’s death sentences move closer to the present Capote finds himself drawing further and further away from familiar faces, comforted only by solitude and the drink. All the while the book marches on, page after painful page until at last the masterpiece awaits its final chapter which is only to be delivered pending Capote’s personal witnessing of the execution of the two Halcomb murderers. Until then, “In Cold Blood” remains an open book. Shortly thereafter, neither Capote nor America would ever be the same…
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is arguably a respected and noted actor of our time; he was blooming in “Scent of a Woman”, great in “Magnolia”, and compelling in “Patch”, and as such, a confident “fit” for the role of Capote. But in “Capote”, Hoffman is perfect. It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that none other than Phillip Seymour Hoffman was fit for the role of portraying one of America’s most controversial literary icons, and more importantly, that his performance was more than deserving of the Oscar that was awarded to him for his efforts. Hoffman immerses himself so wholly in the role that, from manipulating the movement of his mouth, to the tinny, fragile cadence of his voice, Hoffman is Capote, at least for the span of several hours before he blinks his eyes, drops the register of his voice, and returns to America once again as Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the man who pulled off one of the greatest impersonations of 21st century cinema.
Likewise Catherine Keener and Clifton Collins Jr. are arresting in their performances as Harper Lee and Perry Smith respectively. Clifton Collins evokes pity, sympathy, compassion, understanding, fear, and disgust all at once. He is, in short, as enigmatic as the complicated man who endeavors to write his story. Likewise Keener is enrapturing as the solid, politically subversive authoress fighting her way into a “man’s world”. She stands assured and strong in lieu of her male competition’s many efforts to keep her out with their continual negligence of the dawning of her masterpiece.
Though the lens focuses on Hoffman-as-Capote for much of the film, its temporary shifts to Keener-as-Harper Lee imply that another angle is being attacked in this film and that more than a simple “friendship” is being evoked between Capote and Lee. In short, they are two wayward warriors fighting for their right to be heard in a literary world filled with the stagnancy of ennui. For Capote however, the dream is a little more Grande; the stakes are set high in Capote’s attempt to write the great American novel which focuses on the brutal murders of Halcomb, Kansas as its content. Quite dissenting of the American dream if one may say so.
Still, Capote’s mesmerizing prose and his vivid imagery made “In Cold Blood” a huge success, but not without great sacrifices made along the way. “Capote” is an attempt to capture those sacrifices, the physical and mental toll that the making of the book literally took on and from the life of Truman Capote. In the end, “Capote” is as much elegiac as it is reverently retrospective, its biographical narrative with the lingering aura of something haunted preoccupying Capote’s psyche as he endeavors to be recognized-haunted by the ghosts of his past that find a face in the fated man Perry Smith.
“Capote’s” Phillip Seymour Hoffman was the proud recipient of the Oscar for Best Leading Male Actor. In addition “Capote” was nominated for 4 additional Oscars: Best Achievement in Directing (Bennett Miller), Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener), and Best Writing Adapted from Previously Published Material (Dan Futterman). The film also graced another 24 nominations and 36 critical association awards. Of those 36 additional awards, 19 of those awards were from varying critical film associations which granted Phillip Seymour their award for Best Male Actor in a Leading Role, including the Golden Globes.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Truman Capote, the enigmatic author of the notorious modern non-fiction novel, “In Cold Blood”.
Catherine Keener plays “Nel” Harper Lee, Capote’s childhood friend and authoress.
Clifton Collins Jr. plays Perry Smith, the intriguing Halcomb, Kansas murderer.
Chris Cooper plays Alvin Dewey, the Sheriff of Halcomb, Kansas.
Bruce Greenwood plays Jack Dunphy, Capote’s life-partner.
Mark Pellegrino plays Richard Hickock, the other culprit in the Halcomb, Kansas.