Capote (2005)

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Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper, Bob Balaban, Bruce Greenwood, Amy Ryan, Mark Pellegrino

Director: Bennett Miller

Summary: The story of Truman Capote and the writing of his novel “In Cold Blood”

Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Hoffman)*, Supporting Actress (Keener), Adapted Screenplay

When Capote came out on DVD back in the day, I rented it on Netflix and gave up half an hour in; after watching it fully this time, I can understand why I did that a decade ago, but I can also now understand why the movie was acclaimed. The movie’s biggest failing is that it starts very slowly-the first 40 minutes or so aren’t really about the murder, but they also don’t really let us get inside the head of its subject all that much-it’s not exactly a crime story or a biopic, but somewhere unsatisfyingly in between. However, the movie starts to shine once we start focusing on the relationship between Capote and one of the subjects of his novel, convicted murderer Perry Smith. Capote feels a sort of kinship with Smith due to their shared intelligence and similar backgrounds despite their very different paths (“It’s as if Perry and I grew up together in the same house and one day he stood up and went out the back door, while I went out the front”). Over the course of the rest of the film, Capote’s feelings get more complex as he has some darker motivations of his own and the film adds up to a remarkably strong portrait of a man who created a groundbreaking novel, but at what cost?

While the script is good, Hoffman puts on a great performance and he does a lot to make that last hour so memorable. Besides just looking and talking almost exactly like Truman Capote, Hoffman also delivers on both the superficial easy-going nature of the man as well as the darkness and sadness that lies beneath. Besides the slow start, the only other complaint I have is that they gave Harper Lee (played by Keener) plenty of screentime (which makes sense, she was his friend and was part of the research for the book), yet left the person as much a blank slate as they started with-why Keener got a nomination, I don’t know, there was almost no material for her to work with here. While this, along with a slow start, prevents Capote from reaching levels of real greatness, the last hour of the movie is so well-executed and Hoffman’s performance is strong enough that it’s still a worthwhile watch.

Rating: B

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