By Kasey Schiedeck | Images property of Sony Pictures Classics
Let's face it, much of American crime literature depends on the unfailing interest of, I would say, most Americans. It's the same morbid curiosity that slows traffic even if the accident has moved to the side of the road. More prominent in American society than in any other, fascination with the horrifying has only evolved since true crime novelist Truman Capote's time.
Capote Movie Review
Capote worked as a well known and well liked writer for the New Yorker when he ventured into novel writing eventually learning of the 1959 quadruple murder in Kansas that sparked a controversy in small town America. Along with fellow author Nelle Harper Lee, Capote begins investigating the murders in rural Kansas as a basis for a news article. No one knows what struck him about the story, but as the film develops, Capote's obsession with the murders and those responsible becomes increasingly evident. Those "responsible" are Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino ) whom Capote studied intensely for over six years while gathering information for his novel. Capote even hired an attorney to appeal the case once the men had been sentenced to death in 1960. Visiting their holding cells, Capote conducted what appears to be weekly interviews of both men for information about their pasts and, most importantly, the night of the murders. Capote learns of a bracing twist to the murders that I cannot disclose but I will say adds greatly to the story.
And so Capote plays like a curious study of the six grueling years
it took the famed writer to complete his groundbreaking true crime novel
In Cold Blood. With a gift for chronicling these gruesome events with craft
and intelligence, Capote depicted the murders with strict and unnerving
detail unlike any other former or contemporary true crime novelist. Director
Bennett Miller wisely focuses only on this crucial time period that allows
for acute attention to historical detail and a vivid exposť of Capote's
own psychological abnormality.
In Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote and Catherine Keener as Nelle
Harper in Capote.
Whether or not one sympathizes with or is appalled by Perry and Dick is not the question. Most important to this film is the brevity of Capote's transformation in writing his novel. To try and decipher why Capote was the way he was will only result in an endless barrage of unanswered questions about his own psychological state of mind. Instead, the film cleverly studies Capote from an objective point of view with the noble Nelle and Capote's longtime partner Jack to provide a well of nuance and decency in juxtaposition.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman's performance is flawless beyond description; he infuses Capote with a sincerely miraculous indignity that is impossible to ignore. By observation and along with other pre-Oscar buzz, I am certain that he will be an Academy Award contender. Other brilliant performances include Catherine Keener as Nelle (author of To Kill A Mockingbird), Bruce Greenwood as his longtime partner Jack, and Chris Cooper as the melancholy investigator Alvin Dewey. Some will say Clifton Collins Jr.'s portrait of a killer is chilling, but Mark Pellegrino's portrayal of Dick was the more disturbing of the two in my opinion.
By the film's conclusion, it is no longer a question of this man's morality,
but an observation of his ingenious work and the lengths he went to in completing
the masterpiece. By Capote's end, the once eccentrically entertaining
writer becomes what is best described as a despondent nutcase. Oddly enough,
he never finished another novel after In Cold Blood. In truth,
he needn't have tried-he had already obtained well deserved infamy.
Sony Picture Classics
Director: Bennett Miller
Screenplay: Dan Futterman
Based on Capote by Gerald Clarke
Truman Capote: Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Nelle Harper Lee: Catherine Keener
Alvin Dewey: Chris Cooper
Perry Smith: Clifton Collins Jr.
Richard Hickock: Mark Pellegrino
Jack Dunphy: Bruce Greenwood
William Shawn: Bob Balaban
Marie Dewey: Amy Ryan