It wasn't intended this way. Nevertheless, "Infamous" gives you the unique opportunity to see how two sets of filmmakers can take exactly the same story, make extremely tough though different choices in emphasis and tone and achieve brilliant movies. "Infamous" follows Truman Capote
on his tortuous and ultimately soul-damaging six-year quest to write his masterpiece, "In Cold Blood", just as the Oscar-winning "Capote" did last year.
Which raises the question: Will "Infamous" be hurt by being released a year later? You would think people who enjoyed "Capote" and Philip Seymour Hoffman
's amazing impersonation of that famous, self-aggrandizing writer would want to see the new film. Then again, there may be "Truman fatigue". "Capote" grossed $28.7 million at the domestic boxoffice, so you figure "Infamous" should at least make it past the $20 million mark.
Naturally, both films rely heavily on the central performance. English stage actor Toby Jones certainly looks like Truman Capote
. Jones is small, and he makes this one of the keys to understanding this contradictory figure. His imitation of Capote's high-pitched voice and gloriously fey manner is equal to Hoffman's, but his emphasis is less on Tru the tortured author than on his lonely, yearning soul.
His Truman is a man on a lifelong, unrequited search for love. The great irony is that he comes closest to achieving this quest with four-time killer Perry Smith.
Here is where the two movies crucially diverge. "Infamous" spends much longer in the prison cell where the writer and his subject engage in a courtship that results in Perry opening up to Truman and allowing him to write his book. Daniel Craig plays the psychopath with a divided heart. As Truman says, "the tender and the terrible" dwell within him side by side. One side wars against the other, igniting rages that may well have fed the 1959 killing spree in Holcomb, Kansas.
"Infamous" covers the same time period as "Capote": from 1959 until the executions of Perry and his partner Dick Hickock (Lee Pace
) in 1965. There are superficial similarities in how the movies juxtapose two dramatically different worlds -- plain-folks Kansas and forbidding prison cells in contrast to the martini-soaked, name-dropping, gossip-fixated Manhattan set where Truman's wit and literary fame made him the toast of many parties.
"Infamous" adds one more juicy ingredient. The movie is based on George Plimpton
's oral biography, "Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career." So you get not only barbed "interviews" with the likes of author Gore Vidal
) but parties and boozy lunches with Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver
), wife of CBS chairman William Paley; Neapolitan princess Marella Agnelli (Isabella Rossellini); socialite Slim Keith (Hope Davis); and Vogue editor Diana Vreeland
). The movie even opens with Gwyneth Paltrow
as Peggy Lee, singing and breaking down over "What Is This Thing Called Love?" That question haunts the rest of the movie.
According to "Infamous", Truman and Perry fall for each other. The author's seduction of the murderer for the sake of his book exposes each to a weird sort of alter ego: Both men had fathers who disappeared and disappointed and mothers who committed suicide. Both were greedy for attention. Truman earned his, but Perry had to kill four people.
Truman is accompanied to Kansas by childhood friend and fellow author Harper Lee
). She acts as guide and guardian for this strange little man, who initially is hapless and lost in the Midwest. But in this version, she gradually drifts to the sidelines while remaining a confidante and sounding board as the movie shifts from mannered comedy to gripping drama.
Jeff Daniels finds many layers in the role of Alvin Dewey
, the Kansas police inspector who must be gradually and grudgingly won over to Truman's cause. Peter Bogdanovich
is quite good as Bennett Cerf, the affable editor who ushers "In Cold Blood" into print.
Without the usual fuss and feathers of period pieces, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel
and designer Judy Becker
make the past come wonderfully alive. Rachel Portman
's melancholy score contributes to the film's sense of regret. For in "Infamous" Truman finds himself in love with a man who needs to die for him to achieve his goal. That kills him spiritually. It is a fact that Capote never finished another book.
Killer Films/John Wells Prods.
Screenwriter-director: Douglas McGrath
Based on the book by: George Plimpton
Producers: Christine Vachon
, Jocelyn Hayes
, Anne Walker-McBay
Executive producer: John Wells
Director of photography: Bruno Delbonnel
Production designer: Judy Becker
Music: Rachel Portman
Costumes: Ruth Myers
Editor: Camilla Toniolo
Truman Capote: Toby Jones
Harper Lee: Sandra Bullock
Perry Smith: Daniel Craig
Dick Hickock: Lee Pace
Bennett Cerf: Peter Bogdanovich
Alvin Dewey: Jeff Daniels
Slim Keith: Hope Davis
Peggy Lee: Gwyneth Paltrow
Marella Angelli: Isabella Rossellini
Diana Vreeland: Juliet Stevenson
Babe Paley: Sigourney Weaver
MPAA rating R
Running time -- 118 minutes