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Overall Rating
2.5

Awesome: 3.85%
Worth A Look: 3.85%
Average: 34.62%
Pretty Bad53.85%
Total Crap: 3.85%

3 reviews, 8 user ratings


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Infamous
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Stop-We've Heard This One Before"
2 stars

No, you haven’t hit some kind of time warp–there really is another film out there centering on the period of time in which author Truman Capote researched and wrote his landmark book “In Cold Blood” and how the experience both made and destroyed his career. However, while “Infamous” was shot at the same time as last year’s “Capote” (and was subsequently delayed until now in order to separate the two projects in the minds of viewers), the comparisons definitely end there.

The film follows the same basic pattern as “Capote.” While fishing around for material, Capote comes across the story of the brutal slaughter of the Clutter family, a small-town Kansas clan who were brutally murdered one night in their home for no apparent reason. For most people, this would seem like a senseless tragedy but for Capote, it seems like sure-fire literary material for a “New Yorker” article that will investigate how such a crime–particularly an unsolved one–changes and effects the people in a small town. With good friend and fellow author Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock), Capote sets off for the heartland to follow the story but discovers that his flamboyant manner alienates many of the townspeople, especially police chief Alvin Dewey (Jeff Daniels). Eventually, Capote’s peculiar charm and glamorous tales of the famous people he has known and wrestled begin to win people over and he gets enough material to expand the proposed article into a book that will allow him to experiment with a new storytelling technique of combining the real-life aspects of journalism with the narrative techniques usually seen in fiction. Just as he is about to leave, however, there is an unexpected development that will change his life forever–the apprehension of the accused killers, a pair of small-time losers named Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) and Dick Hickock (Lee Pace).

As the two go on trial for their lives, Capote begins to interview them as well and finds himself developing an oddly close friendship with Perry Smith, a man whose claims of an artistic soul seem so at odds with the savagery he helped bring upon the Clutters. Eventually, Capote is torn between his feelings towards Smith and his desire to finally finish his book–of course, the book can’t be finished until after the execution of Smith and Hickock. Eventually, they hang and Capote’s book becomes a instant literary landmark but the experience would prove so devastating to him that he would never again write anything of consequence and would instead live out the remaining years of his life as a shell of himself making wisecracks on talk shows.

As I said, the film covers the same basic material as “Capote” but while it may contain a similar story, the approach taken by writer-director Douglas McGrath is wildly different and quite unsuccessful. He gives us a glossy, dumbed-down take on the material filled with pointless star turns from famous faces as Capote’s high-society pals (Sigourney Weaver as Babe Paley, Peter Bogdanovich as Bennet Cerf and an inexplicable cameo from Gwyneth Paltrow as someone meant to be Peggy Lee)–he even interrupts the proceedings so that they can comment on the story in a mock-documentary format that awkwardly tries to suggest the structure of the George Plimpton oral history that the screenplay is based on–and dialogue far too on-the-nose for its own good. (Do we really need to have one-hit wonder Harper Lee say “I don’t care what the critics say as long as I get to write another book”?). The relationship between Capote and Smith, which is the focus of the second half of the film, is never particularly convincing although Daniel Craig gives it his all in a strong performance as Smith. Finally, while the relatively unknown Toby Jones looks and sounds more like Capote than Philip Seymour Hoffman ever did, his is still the lesser Capote because all he has to offer is a superior impression while Hoffman went beyond that with a deeply felt performance that went far beyond mere caricature.

I wasn’t the hugest fan of “Capote” but it at least seemed interested in the man and his work. “Infamous,” on the other hand, is little more than watching a bunch of well-known people telling you a story that you already know without ever quite demonstrating any real need for the second version.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15163&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/13/06 16:22:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/10/09 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 2 stars
7/31/08 Charles Tatum Jones puts Hoffman to shame 5 stars
6/26/07 Helen Bradley Toby Jones is good but film seems long and poorly scripted Paltrow quite out of her depth 1 stars
6/24/07 Ash A poor shadow of the brillliant Capote 2 stars
2/23/07 Betty It just didn't do it for me as did "Capote" Too slick in parts--Music--bad!! 3 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Gossipy take relies more on reputation than introspection. 'Capote' is superior. 3 stars
11/10/06 Elizabeth Worth seeing, but does not have the devastating emotional impact of "Capote". 3 stars
10/23/06 David Neubert Much Better than Capote 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Oct-2006 (R)
  DVD: 13-Feb-2007

UK
  N/A

Australia
  17-May-2007




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