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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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
The easiest role for an actor to play is a historical figure - we have no idea how Julius Caesar really sounded, how he moved his body, punctuated his speech, bit his lip, walked into a room, held his cigarette. The hardest role is the living, or recently deceased, celebrity whom we watched, heard, studied, mimicked and thought we understood. JFK, Martin Luther King, Ray Charles, and, above all, the inventor of self referential celebrity, Truman Capote (with apology to Andy Warhol and, of course, Noel Coward)..
After exploding to meteoric fame with his novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, Capote became the New York café society's darling, heir to Coward's gay-man-child-bon-vivant. He drank and held court with the best of New York, which just also happened to be the nexus of television in the early 60s. Before long Capote was the quintessential modern celebrity, famous for being famous. And he did it all before our eyes.
Philip Seymour Hoffman does not so much play Capote as become him. And not just in mannerism, no mean feat, but in personality, because we are convinced that Hoffman feels what Capote felt, cries over the lies, accepts his moral failings. For a short story writer-raconteur from New Orleans, Capote found himself at the center of a nationally enthralling multiple homicide, facing the ultimate journalist's Faustian dilemma: if he perpetrates a lie for the sake of exposing the truth, is he ever worthy of redemption? Capote, in the end, concluded that he wasn't; he never wrote another book. He descended into drunkenness and died a lonely soul. This is not the stuff of Holly Golightly.
I saw this picture at the Toronto Film Festival with Hoffman, Catherine Keener and director Bennett Miller in attendance. Though they had seen it many many times before, it was obvious even they were moved by it and by our reaction. As we stood and applauded them, we turned to one another, glowing in the realization that we had witnessed an amazing performance.
We knew Truman Capote. We watched him live on television. Truman Capote was (we imagined) our friend. Mr. Hoffman, you are Truman Capote.
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