Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, January 30, 2009


CAPOTE (2005). Director: Bennett Miller.

If you're looking for a biography of Truman Capote, look elsewhere. Although this does offer some insight into the writer -- but not much -- it focuses primarily on how he came to write the book for which he is most famous: In Cold Blood. If there is a problem with the movie -- among many -- it's that it seems to cut away from certain sequences just as they start to get interesting. Capote asks murderer Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) what his first impression of him is, but we never hear the answer (one can imagine!). Except for a brief bit when the subject of whether or not Capote has fallen in love with Smith (a real possibility) comes up, Dan Futterman's somewhat superficial script never really deals with his subject's sexuality, and indeed avoids delving into Capote's questionable objectivity and other matters. Oscar-winning Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a terrific performance, however, and for the most part the rest of the cast is excellent. The film can't avoid a dated quality, however. When In Cold Blood came out it was before the current obsession with and knowledge of serial killers and sociopaths, so Capote's attempt to humanize and sympathize with the callous cretins who slaughtered an entire family fall flat. In fact, the image that stays in the mind isn't of Perry Smith being hanged, but teenage Nancy Clutter being shot by him. The terrified girl's eyes are open; she's awake and knows what's about to happen to her. She undoubtedly heard the shots that took the lives of the rest of the family. And we're supposed to feel sorry for Smith? Bruce Greenwood is cast in the thankless role of Capote's friend Jack Dunphy. The character is so undefined as to be pointless. Catherine Keener is fine as Harper To Kill a Mockingbird Lee. Beautifully photographed by Adam Kimmel.

Verdict: Not at all what it could have been. **1/2.

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