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Infamous

Toby Jones and Sigourney Weaver in Infamous

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary By Director/Writer Douglas McGrath; Theatrical Trailer.

ONE has to feel sorry for British actor Tony Jones whose excellent portrayal of celebrated American author Truman Capote in Infamous threatens to be completely overshadowed by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-winning turn.

Call it bad planning or rotten luck but it’s debatable whether audiences will want to pay to see two Capote movies in as many years.

For those that do, however, writer-director Douglas McGrath’s Infamous offers an interesting variation on Bennett Miller’s Capote and emerges as slightly more fun in the process.

It’s based on a portrait of the author compiled by George Plimpton, following a series of interviews the latter conducted with socialite insiders and those closest to him.

It then chronicles the six years that Capote spent researching his novel, In Cold Blood, from the time he first heard about the senseless killing of a Kansas family on a remote farm to the execution of the men responsible.

Along the way, it follows his relationship with one of the two killers involved – Perry Smith, played by Daniel Craig – and his various other friendships with the likes of fellow author Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock) and Holcomb detective Alvin Dewey (Jeff Daniels).

But whereas Miller’s biopic took a sombre approach to the whole story, Infamous treads a much more satisfying line between humour and tragedy, celebrating Capote’s flamboyance early on and aiming several jokes at his expense (either vocally or in terms of stature).

Jones, like Hoffman, provides a tour-de-force as the author, effortlessly embodying his airs and graces, as well as that distinct voice. One can only imagine what a head-on battle between the two would have been like if they’d been eligible for the same awards ceremonies.

As things stand, the Capote story has had its hour and Infamous has been left to quietly find its way into cinemas.

But there’s still plenty to savour for anyone who doesn’t mind revisiting such familiar territory.

Daniel Craig is excellent as mixed-up killer Perry Smith, delivering menace and sensitivity in equal measure, while Sandra Bullock shines as Harper Lee, providing a worthy sparring partner for Truman.

Jeff Daniels is also good value as the detective who reluctantly comes to appreciate Truman, while there are nice moments from Sigourney Weaver, Peter Bogdanovich and Gwyneth Paltrow singing her heart out in a cameo as Kitty Dean.

McGrath, as director, also does a nice job of mixing colours, capably offsetting the cold greys of Holcomb with the bright lights and splendid fashions of Capote’s city life.

And there’s still plenty to consider from both films’ depictions of the darkness that lies within men’s hearts.

Viewers can’t be blamed for looking at Infamous and dismissing it as “just another Capote movie” but if they found anything to appreciate in Miller’s Oscar-winner then this is certainly worthy of their consideration as well.

It would be the least that Jones and McGrath deserve.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 118mins