Tuesday, May 08, 2007


The verdict:A great lead performance, but the movie lacks real depth overall. Ultimately unrewarding.

The rating: 6/10

Sometimes it's a wise to avoid the lascivious lure of movie marketing men, and simply sidestep the decision to view a 'big' film around the time it's released. PCMR would like to claim such wisdom in this case, but in reality, although my initial reaction to Capote's release might not have involved chomping at the bit, I just didn't get around to watching it 'til now! (Useless - Ed)

I should probably describe 'Capote' as 'big' under advisement, as it was essentially made independently, and executive produced by Hoffman himself, but it generated sufficient 'buzz' - that most ephemeral and sought-after of commodities in the movie industry – to garner multiple academy award nominations and universal recognition for Philip Seymour Hoffman in the titular lead role of Truman Capote.

However, the point I would make here is that buzz is often off the mark. Think 'Star Wars Episode I', 'Snakes on a Plane', the much vaunted '300', and now also possibly even Tarantino's 'Grindhouse'? (Wow, getting on to dodgy ground there! – Ed).

In the case of a biopic such as this, there is a well-trodden path towards Oscar-worthiness, and as long as there is technical expertise on show, you can bet your barnet that the biopic will be in the running for gongs come Oscar night. True to form, Capote was nominated for four, including best picture. Catherine Keener deserved her nod for a great supporting turn as Harper Lee, and Hoffman undoubtedly deserved his for a great performance, but best director and best picture? Methinks the academy were a little swept up in the 'buzz' two years ago.

However... in this context, I'd still have to say that technically at least, Capote is a good movie. It’s a well-constructed, well-acted ensemble piece with particularly strong performances from Hoffman and Keener, an intelligent script, believable, rounded characters and some beautifully colourful vistas of Kansas in wintertime.

It's just the story that lets it down for me. I mean, on the surface, it's straight-forward enough: Capote is stuck for direction on his next novel, hears of a series of grisly murders in Kansas, and sets about interviewing one the prime suspects. The product of these interviews was a certain novel called In Cold Blood... So with a straight-forward narrative such as this, you would expect there to be a lot more going on under the surface, right? Well, you may be disappointed.. Truman Capote was certainly an interesting, if unstable character. In the movie, his attempts to be all things to all people could be interpreted a number of ways: either he is duplicitous, emotionally insecure, or some combination of the two.

The lead role is superbly played by Hoffman, but my main problem with the character was simply that he was not particularly likeable. Capote is portrayed as intelligent, but more in the sense of being manipulative and self-serving than philanthropic. The means by which he extracts the interviews from the alleged killers in the murder case, and then simply exploits this information for his own benefit - not before taking to bed for a day or to due to the stress of it all, does not warm him to the audience on any human level. Also, the end of the film leaves us in some doubt as to whose blood the title of Capote's novel refers...

I have to say, not being aware of Capote’s work – aside from having seen 'Beat the Devil', a rather lacklustre Bogie movie he co-wrote – I was not inspired by the movie version of his life to learn any more about the man. An interesting character, sure, but perhaps the man had more interesting chapters in his life to put on the silver screen.

Overall, I was left with the feeling that what was on show in Capote was beautiful in it’s own way, but that this beauty only ran skin-deep. Oscar-worthiness doesn’t always mean a great movie… (on the other hand perhaps Capote suffered from being viewed only two nights after PCMR watched 'The Life of Others' – Ed)

... As is often the case with the movie industry, it is very difficult to put together a project without finding some other crew attempting to ride on your coat-tails, putting out an eerily similar movie within a few months of your own. Having personally witnessed a Celebrity Deathmatch between The Prestige and The Illusionist, PCMR now declares Capote to be up against the allegedly superior 'Infamous', released last year, and featuring Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, and a certain Daniel Craig. Perhaps I’ll hold back from condemning Capote too much until I see Infamous, but on its own merits, I didn’t particularly warm to this movie.

1 comment:

Dave said...

As to the movie, I found it thrilling to watch how Hoffman brought Capote to life, and how I started by finding him intriguing, grew to loathe him, but ended up reconciling with him during a scene near (at) the end. (it's been a while)

He also wrote the short story, "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

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