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Movie Review: Capote

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For one to rationalize the life of Truman Capote is a far unachievable goal. One of the great American authors of all time, Capote was the Southern born New York socialite author who penned the earth shattering novel In Cold Blood. This was his story of the emotional unraveling that led to one of the greatest works of non-fiction that the world has ever beheld.

The Story
The story brings us Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as he travels to the small town of Halcomb, Kansas with friend and confidant Nell Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) to research the murder of a family of four for an article in The New Yorker. And as Capote begins to unravel the senseless and horrific acts taken by the two murderers he begins to see that his article is much more, and it soon becomes his greatest work, the novel In Cold Blood.

Capote begins to form a close relationship with one of the murderers, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and even attempts to help the murderers so that he can have enough time to seek out the entire tale of the murders before Smith and Richard Hickock (Mark Pelligrino) are executed for their crimes. As Capote continues his work he is drawn into his relationship with Smith, and it nearly consumes him in the end as he awaits their execution so as to find a sense of closure for his work.

The conflicts of his emotions and his motives as an interviewer make this a disturbing set of events for Capote, and all contribute to his work which would become the novel that would change the face of non-fiction literature forever.

The Acting
Philip Seymour Hoffman was absolutely staggering as the annoyingly brilliant Capote. He captured Capote’s walk, his talk, and his emotional instability without flinching. His performance will go down as one of the best of the year, by far. As I watched the film I felt drawn into the world of Capote, the ever glamorous New York socialite whose emotions conflict ultimately with his work. I was in awe of the level at which Hoffman portrayed Capote, giving new meaning to the phrase “in character.” And while Hoffman was brilliant, I believe it was the performance of Clifton Collins Jr. (Perry Smith) that really brought the story to life.

Collins’ portrayal of the remorseful, yet cold hearted Smith will long be remembered as one of the more overlooked performances of 2005. As I watched the two interact on screen, it was easy to know what kind of emotional despair the situation brought to the mind of Truman Capote, and how difficult it was for him to find closure in the fact that he had befriended a killer in order to tell a story. A solid ensemble that included Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper brought the world of Capote right onto the big screen, and left an indelible mark on Capote’s legacy.

Behind the Scenes
Visually the movie was interesting. The lonely shots of the desolate Kansas prairie really aided in setting the somber tone of the film. And while the sets allowed me to feel like I was right there in the world that was in the early 1960s, there was no amazing visual achievement here. And though the film was not visually stimulating, it fit for some reason.

I believe that the intention of this work of cinema was to truly unveil the emotional dysfunction of the main character, not show off the desolate midwest. I believe that the real gem of the behind the scenes work on this film has to be the casting job done by Avy Kaufman. The cast truly fit their roles and they were truly able to tell the story as is probably actually happened. Impressive, to say the least.

The Final Cut
In the end, I was moved by Capote. Not necessarily by the story itself, but by the way it was delivered through the brilliant acting of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He gave a truly Oscar worthy performance and should be commended appropriately. The film did its job, and was significantly depressing in the end. But once it’s over you feel for Truman Capote. You are left to feel a certain sadness about what he put himself through as a writer, and it changes you a little…

Oscar Night Chances

This film featured one of the best ensemble casts of the year, but the standout will always be Philip Seymour Hoffman. His performance was stunning and powerful. His embodiment of the eccentric and awkwardly personable Truman Capote will not soon be forgotten, especially by the Academy. And while Hoffman should have his golden evening, Capote may have a tough fight to stand alone as the Best Film of 2005.

The Upside:
Stellar performance from Hoffman. A very emotionally moving film.
The Downside:
There will be no awards for “feel good movie of the year” for Capote. If you do not like depressing stories based in real life, this is not a film for you.
On the Side:
Philip Seymour Hoffman lost 40 pounds to be able to play the role of Truman Capote.

Making the Grade:
The Story: B+
The Acting: A
Behind the Scenes: B
Overall: B+

Neil M. is a writer for Film School Rejects.

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