In November 1959, writer and Manhattan society darling Truman Capote (Toby Jones), reads of the Clutters murder, in tiny Holcomb, Kansas. Intrigued, he convinces The New Yorker magazine to give assign him to write a story. Accompanying him is his friend and research assistant Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock), whose own book, To Kill a Mockingbird is about to be published. Capote eventually wins over Alvin Dewey (Jeff Daniels), the local officer leading the hunt for the killers. The killers, Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) and Dick Hickock (Lee Pace), are captured, tried, convicted and sentenced to die. Capote visits them in jail, now keen to turn the article into a new kind of non-fiction novel - but his association with especially Perry Smith, has unexpected emotional consequences.
Review by Louise Keller:
Filled with light and shade, frivolity and despair, Infamous brilliantly conveys the paradox of a most fascinating author. Truman Capote was the darling of Manhattan's chic café society and a writer who believed his words were 'as dazzling and unique as a Faberge egg.' But in pursuit of a new kind of reportage bringing fictional techniques to non fiction, Capote found himself to be an emotional prisoner of his own making. It's a fascinating story, told with consummate skill by writer director Douglas McGrath, who explores the never-land relationship that develops between the infamous author and his controversial subject.
It's a role of a lifetime for British actor Toby Jones, whose interpretation is arguably even more convincing than that of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar winning performance in the film Capote. Jones' Capote is fun, excessive, he wears flouncey clothes, is a great talker and an avid listener. An entertaining raconteur, his stream of anecdotes are filled with Hollywood luminaries such as Bogie, John (Huston), Frank (Sinatra) and Marilyn (Monroe). His high-pitched voice, according to good friend Gore Vidal, sounds like a brussel sprout. If a Brussels sprout could talk. It is his anecdotes that break the ice - when he needs it most. It opens the door of cooperation with Alvin Dewey (Jeff Daniels), the detective in charge of the case, and mention of Tennessee Williams get him through the prison bars onto the same wave length as Perry Smith (Daniel Craig). 'I don't have to act like a wind up toy for you,' Capote tells the killer Smith.
When Capote tells Smith 'I never judge my characters', Perry quickly retorts 'I'm not a character.' While he may not judge the key character of his book In Cold Blood, talking about him is another story for Capote, sharing intimate details over lunch with his adoring, elegantly rich women friends. 'He has the tender and the terrible side by side,' he confides of Perry. With dyed hair and tattoos, Craig nails the incredible complexity of a man who juggles gentleness with violence. The relationship between Capote and Perry is overtly moving and there was a big lump in my throat as the final chapters played out.
All the performances ring true: Sandra Bullock's Nell Harper Lee and Sigourney Weaver, Juliet Stevenson, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini as the ladies who lunch. Apt too, that Gwyneth Paltrow's slinky cabaret singer in the first scene, tosses the eternal question 'What is This Thing Called Love', through Cole Porter's classic song.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For anyone interested in Truman Capote and his reportage novel In Cold Blood, the fact that Infamous and Capote (2006) were made within a couple of months of each other (but released a year apart for obvious reasons) will be a welcome opportunity to compare how the two films approach their subject. And there are plenty of reasons to be fascinated by the story, all of them visible in both films but they differ in emphasis. In this latter film, Infamous, Truman Capote remains at the very centre, with less time spent on the two killers, except where their story intersects with Capote's. Likewise, peripheral characters are only relevant in the context of their impact on Capote's journey from a cocky little gay Manhattan socialite to a writer whose most accomplished work also is his emotional ruin.
The film focuses on this gradual decline in Capote's happiness and balance, and shows an even more flawed character than did Dan Futterman's script in Bennett Miller's direction of Capote. We see several examples of Capote manipulating his report for maximum effect. We see his anguish at wanting the killers to be executed so he can finish his book. We see his arrogance, his selfishness and his final failure to cope with the new Capote, forged out of the fire of a truly strange affair.
Douglas McGrath does well in the essentials of the film, although the on and off use of the faux documentary touch of naming the characters is a tad irritating and unnecessary. I don't much like the too-clever-by-half cutting of a conversation string into the mouths of successive characters, used a couple of times for effect. Still, these are small quibbles.
A diminutive English actor, Toby Jones serves as a strong contrast to Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the title role, and gives us a variation on the theme which is both memorable and affecting. The supporting roles all have less weight in this film than in Capote, but all are well paraphrased. Daniel Craig makes something else again of Perry Smith, a commanding character with a melancholy that lingers on after the film.
Dan Futterman's screenplay is a condensation of In Cold Blood, whereas Douglas McGrath takes a more personal point of view. Both are valid.
Email this article
CAST: Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, Michael Panes, Hope Davis, Frank G. Curcio, Isabella Rosselini, Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Peter Bogdanovich, Jeff Daniels, Bethlyn Gerard, Lee Pace,
PRODUCER: Jocelyn Hayes, Christine Vachon, Ann Walker-McBay
DIRECTOR: Douglas McGrath
SCRIPT: Douglas McGrath (book Truman Capote by George Plimpton)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bruno Delbonnel
EDITOR: Camilla Toniolo
MUSIC: Rachel Portman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Judy Becker
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 22, 2007
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.