In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.
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Jean François Heckel,
Famed writer Truman Capote, southern born and bred but now part of the New York City social circle, is growing weary of his current assignment of writing autobiographical type pieces for the New Yorker. After reading a newspaper article about the just occurred November 14, 1959 cold blooded murders of the Clutter family in their rural Kansas home, Truman feels compelled to write about that event as his next article. So he and his personal assistant Nelle Harper Lee, also a southern born New Yorker and an aspiring writer of her own, head to Kansas to research the story first-hand. Truman hopes to use his celebrity status to gain access to whomever he needs, such as to Laura Kinney, a friend of the Clutter daughter she who discovered the bodies, and to Alvin Dewey, the lead police investigator and also a Clutter family friend. If his celebrity doesn't work, Truman will grease the wheels by whatever means necessary. When the police eventually charge suspects, two young men named Dick ...Written by
This is a fine character study of Truman Capote whose professional desires collide with his personal desires, as he researches and writes about the 1959 murders of a Kansas family. The film examines how these conflicting desires arose, and how Capote, the person, handled the ordeal once he realized that these desires were mutually exclusive.
Hoffman mimics Capote's posture, voice, facial expressions, and overall mannerisms quite well. It's a great impersonation. But, towards the film's end when Capote has to say goodbye for the last time, Hoffman's portrayal of Capote's grief and helplessness goes well beyond parody. It's an example of genuine acting ability.
Other performances are also good, especially Chris Cooper as Prosecutor Alvin Dewey, and Catherine Keener as Capote's friend, Nelle Harper Lee. In addition to the fine acting, the story itself is gripping, because it is a true story. It's been told before, most convincingly in 1967's "In Cold Blood", from the POV of the killers. That film was photographed in B&W. "Capote", by contrast, is in color. But the colors are all muted, reassuringly so, in view of the subject matter. The tone of "Capote" is solemn and earnest, almost funereal. The pace is slow and deliberate. Music is restrained.
Viewers with little or no interest in the central character may find the first half of the film slow going. It plods along without a lot of tension or suspense. But as the writer bonds with the convicted killer, tension picks up, and then further builds en route to a profound destiny.
My only critique, beyond a slow beginning, pertains to the minimal attention given to era atmosphere. Given that the story takes place in the late 1950s and early to mid-1960s, I would have preferred more cinematic cues of that time period, especially with regard to music, decor, and cultural themes which are curiously absent, aside from obvious props like cars and telephones.
The Clutter killings were, and still are, unsettling and haunting, even after all these years. "Capote" is a high quality film that describes Truman Capote's research into the case, especially as regards the mindset and motivations of the killers, and further examines the effects that Capote's investigation had on him, both as a writer and as a human being with feelings. Though the story is good, Hoffman's wonderful performance is the real reason to see this film.
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