Saturday, July 11, 2009


As a writer - and particularly as a frustrated writer - I got more out of Capote than most other people probably did; but it’s still an awfully good, if somewhat plodding, movie whether you’re a writer or not. And yes...Philip Seymour Hoffman probably deserved the Oscar he won for it. He doesn’t look much like Truman Capote, though; and that’s not his fault, of course, and should not really take anything away from his performance...but he doesn’t look much like Truman Capote. I wonder how David Hyde Pierce would have done in the role.

Anyway...the film follows Truman Capote’s life through the dark years during which he wrote his most famous book, In Cold Blood, the fictional/non-fictional story of four brutal murders in a Kansas farmhouse in 1959. There are some sidebars during the film - notably, the publication and subsequent success of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, penned by Capote’s friend Harper Lee - but the thrust of the film is the idea that In Cold Blood was to Truman Capote what the monster was to Dr. Frankenstein. This is a scary - and yet, oddly, sort of compelling - way to think about writing, especially for those of us who have been at work on one particular thing for a long time with, as Capote says in the film, “no end in sight.”

Other than the occasionally plodding pace, the only thing that really bothered me about the movie was how much practically every scene seemed to focus on Hoffman speaking in Capote’s famously high-pitched, reedy voice. There were some obligatory crying scenes, too, particularly near the end; but I’m not sure that’s quite enough to raise this performance above Heath Ledger’s towering Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain. Both are minor quibbles, though; this is a very good movie.

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