Many have enjoyed his work in numerous independent productions, but as flamboyantly gay writer Truman Capote, this is clearly Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tour-de-force performance that will place him in the spotlight. Hoffman has long deserved recognition as he has proved himself a consummate actor.
Catherine Keener is unusually believable as Capote’s friend, confidante and one-time author Harper Lee. My only disappointment with the film is that actor Dan Futterman, while vividly penning the screenplay from Gerald Clarke’s 1988 Capote biography, limits the story to the years that he spent researching and writing what became In Cold Blood. Unfortunately, his pioneering nonfiction novel about the murder of the Clutter family from Holcomb, Kansas, and the two ex-convict murderers was to be his swan song. As such, it would have been much more rewarding to experience more of Capote’s ego-eccentricities in a more thorough account of his life. Perhaps Capote focuses on the writing of In Cold Blood because it would have been too difficult to try to cram his entire life into one film.
The biopic genre is a particularly difficult tightrope balance of performance without merely impersonation for any actor, given that they must transform their persona into well-known figures that are readily compared to actual archive footage. While the Screen Actors Guild recognizes this, Oscar nominations and awards typically require larger-than-life portrayals.
Unfortunately, Hoffman will be pitted against the equally engaging performance of David Strathairn’s Edward R. Murrow in George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck. That said, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s astoundingly dead-on portrayal of Capote’s celebrated literary public persona is more than worth the price of admission, and Mr. Hoffman absolutely deserves whatever acting awards are bestowed upon him this year.