out of Five
Running time: 98
Impressively made, emotionally complex and frequently disturbing film with an Oscar-worthy central performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Bennett Miller, Capote stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as author Truman Capote and focuses on the period between 1959 and 1965, when Capote was developing and writing In Cold Blood. It begins in 1959, when Capote – already the toast of the New York literary set following the publication of Breakfast at Tiffany’s - becomes fascinated by a brutal murder in Kansas.
Capote travels to Kansas to research and develop a book about the murder, taking along his childhood best friend Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) to help him with interviews. However, when he befriends one of the killers (Clifton Collins Jnr as Perry Smith) he becomes torn between his affection for Smith and his powerful desire to finish the book.
Hoffman is terrific in the lead role, brilliantly capturing Capote’s unusual, high pitched voice and camp mannerisms, while also hinting at the calculating darkness of the man within. There’s also superb support from Clifton Collins Jnr, Chris Cooper (as Investigator Alvin Dewey) and the always excellent Catherine Keener.
Towards the end of the film it becomes clear how far Capote is willing to go in order to complete the book. It’s worth noting that the project both consumed and ultimately destroyed Capote – he descended into alcoholism after its publication and never wrote another book.
The only real problem is that, despite its relatively short running time, the film does seem to drag in places. There’s also the sense that having made their point (that an artist sometimes has to compromise his humanity in order to achieve greatness) the film-makers spend the rest of the film making it over and over again.
Capote is a fascinating, uncompromising portrait of a deeply complex man and Hoffman’s Oscar nomination is surely in the bag. Recommended.