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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Bennett Miller
scr Dan Futterman
with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr, Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Mark Pellegrino, Bob Balaban, Amy Ryan, Allie Mickelson, Marshall Bell, Araby Lockhart, RD Reid
release US 30.Sep.05,
05/US United Artists 1h38
The story of their lives: Hoffman and Keener
Brilliantly capturing one of the art world's more complex characters, this unflinching, steady-eyed film uses a specific story to draw us into Truman Capote's mind. It's a remarkable, if perhaps slightly stark, achievement.
In the late 1950s, Capote (Hoffman) is the toast of New York's literary set, with his colourful persona, outrageously fearless wit and striking talent. His latest novel Breakfast at Tiffany's is a triumph, but for his next book he becomes fascinated by a brutal murder in Kansas. He takes his childhood friend Harper Lee (Keener) along to develop and write In Cold Blood, fully aware that he's creating a new genre--the true novel. What he's not prepared for is the way one of the killers (Collins) gets under his skin.
Futterman's script astutely captures this pivotal span of years (1959 to 1965), during which Capote changed the publishing world forever and created an enduring American classic. But even more striking is the examination of the man himself--a true society dandy who's consumed and possibly destroyed by his own story. Capote never finished another book, and descended into alcoholism after the events of this film. The cast and crew skilfully examine how this happened, without ever being too obvious about it.
After a career of jaw-dropping performances, Hoffman finally gets the leading role he deserves, and he nails it perfectly, balancing Capote's quirky flamboyance with a haunting internal journey. His interactions with the exceptional Keener and Collins are astonishingly self-absorbed and superficial, and yet we see beneath the veneer. The catty game he plays with the detective (Cooper, superb as always) is also fascinating. Less clear is his relationship with his partner Jack Dunphy (Greenwood).
And perhaps this reluctance to really delve into Capote's personal life is the film's one flaw. We only get hints about who he really is--mostly through Hoffman's textured acting. Miller keeps the plotline very straight, maintaining an unfussy sense of the period and only giving into one flashback at the very end. But this is a terrific story, and a remarkable portrait of a savvy but surprisingly vulnerable man.
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© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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