Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr, Chris Cooper
Director: Bennett Miller
Written by Dan Futterman, based on the book ‘Capote’ by Gerald Clarke.
This fantastic biopic, focusing on the turning point in American writer Truman Capote’s life, is classy and fascinating, with Philip Seymour Hoffman finally given centre stage for his undeniable talents in the lead role. CAPOTE focuses on the actual event of the innocent slaughter of an apple-pie Kansas family, the Clutters, in 1959. When Capote read an article about it in a newspaper, his interest was piqued and he initially wangled an assignment for The New Yorker. However, his emotional involvement and aptitude for psychological insight compelled him instead to write the masterpiece of his career.
The film follows Capote (Seymour Hoffman) as he attends the crime scene with his childhood friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), soon to be an award-winning author herself with To Kill a Mockingbird, and endears himself to the locals as a couple of drifters are quickly apprehended in Las Vegas for the crime. As the trial and appeal after appeal are played out, Capote regularly visits the killers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, and finds himself getting unnervingly close to Smith. After 6 years of the case, Capote is drained by his obsession, and longs for an end so that he can finish his torment of a book.
When the end did come, although Capote lived until 1984, he never completed another book and was later to blame the emotional wrenching of the whole episode for his further decline into drink and drugs. Once America’s most famous and glamorous writer, counting ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ amongst his back catalogue, he changed the course of non-fiction writing by pioneering the non-fiction novel with ‘In Cold Blood,’ his book about the Clutters’ murder.
Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Capote is simply spellbinding. His odd mannerisms, initially wearing, eventually become endearing as we delve more into the mind of the genius behind the masterpiece and through him the mind of the killers and what actually happened that fateful night. The film has a slightly too sentimental edge on occasion but this is made up for by the quality of the script, direction and performances and no boring court trials, sticking straight to the facts. If I may be so bold, Seymour Hoffman is my tip for the Oscar this year.