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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Capote (2005)

American literary giant Truman Capote gets a chance to show his more human side and his often misunderstood and derided personality in Bennett Miller's Capote. Chronicling the years following a brutal murder of a wealthy farming family in Kansas in 1959, Capote depicts the fictionist's non-fictional account of convicted multiple murderer Perry Edward Smith's troubled life. Without pandering on the melodrama, the movie at the same time paints the author's sensitivity, magnanimity and unique friendship with Perry.

Based largely on the best-selling and critically-acclaimed non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, which enevitably sealed for Capote the distinction of being one of the finest writers America has produced, the film is very careful not to parody Capote's speech defects and bohemian personality (and thinly veiled homosexual tendencies). Rather it is a moving portrait of someone who truly understands what it means to be abandoned and unwanted. In one scene, when Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), another literary giant and Capote's good friend, confronted Truman about the rumors circulating that he has fallen in love with Perry, Truman told her "It's as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he went out the back door and I went out the front."

Philip Seymour Hoffman who portrays Capote deserves the Oscar Nomination for best actor in lead role. We all know that he might lose the plum to Heath Ledger or David Straithairn but our respect for him as a talented actor in this film knows no bound. Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper are also commendable for their supporting roles.

One caveat though: Capote fails to connect with the audience, unlike what Dead Man Walking did when it elicited an agonizing sympathy for the killers (not that we should always do so, but that's the magic of cinema) with the outstanding performance of Sean Penn. The plot is mostly linear and is unable to prepare the viewers for a hightened emotional response because there isn't any to begin with. The film revolves around the hesitation of Perry to divulge what really happened on the night of the murders but when he finally did so, nothing further (in terms of sympathy) could be squeezed from the audience. It also has the tendency to drag especially in the middle and towards the end.

I admire the fluidity of Capote's writings but I guess the screenwriter was not able to capture that on paper so the director had trouble translating it to the silver screen. A regrettable act.

Fanatic Verdict: Watch it (only to see how good Hoffman is!).


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