On November 16, 1959, Truman Capote reads about the murder of a Kansas family. There are no suspects. With Harper Lee, he visits the town: he wants to write about their response. First he must get locals to talk, then, after arrests, he must gain access to the prisoners. One talks constantly; the other, Perry Smith, says little. Capote is implacable, wanting the story, believing this book will establish a new form of reportage: he must figure out what Perry wants. Their relationship becomes something more than writer and character: Perry killed in cold blood, the state will execute him in cold blood; does Capote get his story through cold calculation, or is there a price for him to pay? Written by
Greetings again from the darkness. What a unique film-going experience. Having the opportunity to see two takes on the same subject matter within a year or so is pretty rare in Hollywood. It happened most recently with "Tombstone" and the vastly inferior "Wyatt Earp". Rarely does it happen when both films are exceptionally well made and acted ... as is the case with last year's "Capote" and now, "Infamous".
First of all, you must understand that the films are actually based on different books. "Infamous" is based on George Plimpton's book in which he really tries to capture Truman Capote, the man and the genius. Because of this, director Douglas McGrath ("Nicholas Nickleby" and "Emma") utilizes some faux-interview segments, much like a "Biography" segment on television. Of course, both films center around the process of Capote researching and writing his masterpiece "In Cold Blood" based on the brutal slaying of a Kansas family in their farmhouse. They both also explore Capote's bizarre relationship with Perry Smith (played brilliantly here by the next James Bond, Daniel Craig). The sexual tension between the two is palpable, but we continue to question if Capote is merely manipulating Smith for the story or if, in fact, there is real substance to the attraction. We will never know if his reaction on death row is heartbreak or guilt. The mystery adds to the power of the story.
The cast in this film is nothing short of spectacular. From the opening moments with Gwyneth Paltrow portraying the great Peggy Lee in a melancholy stage moment to Sigourney Weaver, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini and Juliet Stevenson doing the twist, the actresses are terrific - as are their amazing costumes! In addition to Daniel Craig as Perry Smith, Lee Pace (as Dick Hickcock), Jeff Daniels as the sheriff and ("Last Picture Show" director) Peter Bogdanovich as Bennett Cerf, the actors are also top notch.
Toby Jones as Truman Capote is much more flamboyant and colorful than the amazing performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman last year. Many will try to compare, but what I say is, enjoy them both for their high level of artistry! Now for something I never thought I would put in writing. Sandra Bullock is extremely effective as Nelle Harper Lee (Capote's muse and of course, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird"). Bullock usually flips her hair and bumbles all cutesy-like through her performances, but not here. She plays Ms. Lee straightforward and tough, just like the real thing. How wonderful.
Yes, the story is still heart-wrenching, but "Infamous" provides much more levity, humor and color than the more somber "Capote". Both are wonderful films with excellent casts. Enjoy them both as fine film-making seems to be a rare commodity these days.
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