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Overall Rating

Awesome: 37.86%
Worth A Look41.75%
Average: 11.65%
Pretty Bad: 8.74%
Total Crap: 0%

12 reviews, 31 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"A vehicle for Hoffman to indulge in shallow mimicry."
2 stars

Try as it might to wrestle with the ethics of writing, "Capote" is a very minor film with a major performance.

That performance is by Clifton Collins Jr. as Perry Smith, the killer made famous in Truman Capote's "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood (and played in the 1967 film version by Robert Blake). Collins, who impressed me as the coke-snorting campus drug dealer in The Rules of Attraction, gives us a murderer with the soul of an artist, a man intelligent enough to wonder how he and his partner Dick Hickock came to kill an entire family. We understand why Capote finds Perry interesting enough to keep visiting and writing about.

And Philip Seymour Hoffman (who picked up a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, and an Oscar for his performance)? He's good, too, but the movie seldom gives him a chance to rise above caricature. His Truman Capote is the Capote we're familiar with from countless talk-show appearances: fey, witty, self-aware of his self-absorption. What happens when a cosmopolitan sprite like Capote collides with the rough masculine world of law enforcement? Capote manages to charm everyone he meets in sleepy, wheat-covered Kansas, giving no one a chance to reject him as a snob or a homosexual. We understand intellectually that beneath that charm is a remorseless ambition -- to write the great American book about the Kansas murders -- driven, in turn, by his rootless upbringing and need for approval. Unfortunately, the motives of an affluent writer are considerably less compelling, and useful, than those of a killer.

Hoffman tries, but mainly just gets the surface of Capote. There's more going on with Capote's lifelong friend Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, played by Catherine Keener with a nicely restrained sharpness. I could've done with more scenes of Capote and Lee, and a bit less of Capote whining on the phone about the book he's writing, or not writing. He zeroes in on Perry, the sensitive killer -- a fabulous subject! -- and seduces him into his confidence. I applaud the film for keeping Capote's feelings about Perry ambiguous; we're never sure if he really likes Perry or is just cozying up to him for the book. But the movie assumes our interest in Capote's conflict with himself is stronger than our interest in, say, the relatives of the victims, or even the other killer Dick Hickock, who's barely sketched in.

Non-directed by Bennett Miller, who previously made the 1998 documentary The Cruise, the film runs only 98 minutes but drags terribly, its camera wading through drab color schemes that the peacock Capote himself would've found intolerable. Whether the fault of the sound mix or the theater's sound system, much of the dialogue is incomprehensible, particularly Capote's. The film rode to its nominations for Best Picture and Best Director on the strong back of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who has given better performances in better movies; 2005 was simply his year, his time to be recognized by his admiring peers. Capote is more fun to talk about than to watch; its chosen subject and theme deserved a writer and director who could make its interiorized conflicts crackle, and Bennett Miller just points and shoots like a TV hack.

I was ready for a solid drama about a writer entering the heart of darkness and, through equal amounts of manipulation and compassion, emerging with great literature. "Capote" is that drama, sort of, but it's oddly remote and full of editing choices (sometimes the movie plays as though they used the first take of whatever they had and banged it together as best they could in the editing bay) that distance it even further. Is this the best that American independent film can muster nowadays?

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originally posted: 12/26/06 15:28:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good film imho 4 stars
10/28/13 ClemenceDane I remember Capote, too, from television appearances & PSH didn't capture him at ALL! 2 stars
9/13/12 Alex Good review man 4 stars
3/15/10 Jeff Wilder The film id merely good but Hoffman 4 stars
2/11/10 Kenny the killings were in Kansas not Kentucky. fyi. 3 stars
4/14/09 Shaw C. PSH is a good actor but did not shine in this one. Award should go to Collins Jr 3 stars
3/31/09 Flounder A supremely introspective and probing character study the likes of which left me in awe 5 stars
11/22/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
12/11/07 R.W.Welch Not exactly gripping but Hoffman is dead on in title role. C+ 3 stars
10/25/07 Ivana Mann Emotionally blunted,boring.If you enjoy watching linoleum slowly curl,you'll like this. 2 stars
10/06/06 MP Bartley Austere character study. Brilliant performances across the board. 4 stars
9/13/06 Edward Connell Place yourself in Capote`s place and become fascinated and intrigued. 3 stars
9/12/06 Michael Coovert Never understood the hoopla; movie did not live up to the true story of Capote. 3 stars
8/17/06 Mary Beth flat, not engrossing 2 stars
7/18/06 CTT Mesmerizing and harrowing 5 stars
6/18/06 millersxing A chilling drama. It requires intense effort and energy to watch in one sitting. 4 stars
6/03/06 Ken Kaplan Awesome is the word. One of the most incisive reviews I've seen. One of the best pictures v 5 stars
5/24/06 Indrid Cold Certainly well made, but far too dreary and languid to be enjoyable. 3 stars
5/19/06 Annie G Gripping story, incredible acting, overall a fabulous movie. 5 stars
4/10/06 Phil M. Aficionado Brilliant in all respects:Concept, casting/acting,script, mood, pace, cinematograpy, focus. 5 stars
4/09/06 Simon 'chilling' is the word I can't get out of my head. a prying, no-nonsensely done film. 5 stars
3/13/06 Roderick Cromar I wouldn't let him marry my daughter. 4 stars
3/08/06 Piz Wow what a surprise. A great biopic worthy of best pic. 5 stars
3/07/06 Monday Morning Totally enlightening, revealing & surprising biopic, brilliantly done. 5 stars
3/04/06 Green Gremlin The best biopic in years. Philip Seymour Hoffman desrves the Oscar !!! 5 stars
2/18/06 john bale Hoffman IS Capote in this powerful film and memorable performance. 5 stars
11/29/05 jcjs awesome, Phillip S. Hoffman, wow..a delight to watch acting and story supreme 5 stars
11/24/05 Desperado If PSH does not get an Oscar, somethings wrong terrific yet chilling movie, Incredible 5 stars
11/09/05 Suzz exquisite acting; very, very fine film 5 stars
9/28/05 E. Northam Brilliant casting; superlative performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman 5 stars
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  30-Sep-2005 (R)
  DVD: 21-Mar-2006

  24-Feb-2006 (15)


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