Dir/scr: Douglas McGrath. US 2006. 117mins.
To make another TrumanCapote biopic may be regarded as a misfortune; to make another Truman Capotebiopic about exactly the same period of the writer's life looks likecarelessness. But this classic industry no-no could play out, paradoxically, infavour of Douglas McGrath's nuanced take on the
Infamous hasbeen ready for a while - it started shooting a few months after Capote - but Warner Independent Picturesheld back the US release until this autumn (Oct 13 in Los Angeles and New York,after a Horizons screening at Venice) to give the film some breathing space -and also, presumably, with a view to the award season. It would certainly be afirst for an actor to pick up major prize acclaim for playing the same role asthe previous year's winner - but this scenario is by no means impossible, giventhe breadth and sensitivity of Jones' take on Truman.
The story should be familiarby now. While searching for inspiration for a new book - his seventh - openlygay author and screenwriter Truman Capote sees a small news article about thevicious killing of a family of four in a
Initially frustrated by thestonewalling of townspeople and police, Capote gradually charms away theresistance and begins to accumulate material for the book that would become In Cold Blood.
The core of what Capotethought of as a "non-fiction novel" is a portrait of the killers, a pair ofdrifters called Dick Hickock (Lee Pace) and PerrySmith (Daniel Craig in brooding, conflicted, pre-Bond mode). Hickock and Smith were eventually hanged for the crime, andCapote's book went on to become an international bestseller.
The inbuilt moralintelligence of McGrath's script and direction is established by a scene rightat the beginning in which a sequin-robed Gwyneth Paltrowdoes a turn as a torch singer at a nightclub where Capote and Babe Paley have a table. In the midst of a suave rendition of Love For Sale she chokes up, seems tolose the thread of the song - and has the audience (on both sides of thescreen) eating out of her hand before recovering and finishing in style. Is shefaking for effect, or did she really break down'
The question is central toMcGrath's depiction of Truman as a man who is never notperforming - even, perhaps, when he enters into the confidence of dour,introverted Perry Smith by offering up a stumbling confession about his ownmother's suicide.
The dilemma was raised inlast year's biopic, too - but there the audience wereleft in little doubt that Capote is manipulative through and through. Herethere is a real sense of the writer as a sympathetic man forced to play thecourt jester in self-defence, and jolted out of hissnobbery and ethical complacency by the good and bad of what he finds in
The descent from a frothycomedy of manners (underscored by some almost parodicallylightweight musical trills) into a dark moral melodrama (cue long, melancholicchords) is well-managed, although there are some problems of pacing in theoverlong second half.
It's also a shame thatMcGrath took the cliched route of the decontextualised TV-style interview to sidelight Capote'scharacter and motives, though there are some great quotes here - such as GoreVidal's description of Capote's voice as "what a
Jones, as Capote, is at oncemore freakish and more believable than Seymour Hoffman's fine essay. There wassomething mannered about the bulky Hoffman's take on the elfin Capote, whereasJones - who has more of the build for the job - appears simply to inhabit theauthor's skin, allowing us to watch him as Capote rather than as Jones doingCapote.
The other talent- including a neatly subdued Sandra Bullock - are mere sidekicks to thismain act. The whirl of
John Wells Production
Warner Independent Pictures
Douglas McGrath, based on the book TrumanCapote by George Plimpton