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Capote - Review

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None stated

TRUMAN Capote became America’s best-known author following the release of his astonishing book, In Cold Blood, in 1965, based on the senseless killing of a Kansas family on a remote farm.

Yet success came at huge personal cost and the eccentric, egotistical author never completed another book before his death in 1984 from complications caused by alcoholism.

Bennett Miller’s film, starring an Oscar-nominated Philip Seymour Hoffman, chronicles the six years that Capote spent researching the novel, from the time he first heard of the killings to the execution of the men responsible.

At the core of the film is the strange relationship he shared with one of the two killers, Perry Smith (played by Clifton Collins Jnr), which though manipulative and built on deceit for Capote’s own gain, also assumed a strange sexual element.

The result is a fascinating if cold viewing experience that provides a suitably electrifying platform for Hoffman.

The actor does an incredible job of assuming Capote’s mannerisms, his flamboyance and, above all, his accent – which emerges as something akin to Brando’s Godfather, only more effeminate.

While his portrayal of the writer’s twisted mental state is spot-on – veering between vanity, self-loathing and arrogance with equal aplomb.

In Hoffman’s hands, Capote, who also wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s, becomes a troubled genius – someone that is almost impossible to like yet who is equally magnetic to be around.

His performance does much to compensate for some of the film’s shortcomings, given that Capote does tend to succumb to standard Death Row drama cliche in its attempts to find some humanity in the most unspeakable of crimes.

It is also very deliberately paced, paying close attention to period detail, as well as the angst and depression surrounding both the murder and its effect on everyone involved (from Chris Cooper’s investigating police chief to Capote’s own friends and lovers).

For in devoting himself to trying to understand Perry, while also delivering ‘the book of the century’, Capote neglects those around him, including his close friend, Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) who is on the verge of publishing To Kill A Mockingbird.

There are times when Miller’s film feels just as neglectful of its audience.

That said, Capote remains a strong film anchored by a must-see performance from Hoffman that will best be appreciated by fans of intelligent, performance-based cinema.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 98mins