(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: That Other Capote Movie

Four years ago, the biopic Capote was belle of the awards-season ball. This no doubt pleased the film's subject, the late writer and sometime-actor Truman Capote, to no end. While Truman loved his fame, he loved other people's scandals and infamy even more.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman racked up a number of statuettes, including the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor, for his spot-on impersonation of Capote. Even if Hoffman was notably taller than the diminutive author was, he got Truman's unique voice, cadence and mannerisms down pat. Capote also received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener as Truman's friend and fellow writer Harper Lee, of To Kill a Mockingbird fame).

However, there was a second film about Capote in production at the same time called Infamous. Beaten to theaters and potential awards glory by Capote, it was barely released in 2006 and went quickly to home video semi-obscurity. I only recently saw Infamous on DVD, and was surprised to find it in many ways better than that other Truman show. It's also gayer, as Capote barely delved into the subject's sexuality.

Infamous, based on George Plimpton's authoritative Capote biography, covers the same time period as the other film — the 1959-1963 writing of Truman's seminal In Cold Blood — but reveals much more of the author's social and romantic life in New York City. As a result, it is a more rounded and just plain entertaining film than Capote.

Much of this version's entertainment value comes from its all-star cast, which includes current awards darling Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee, Jeff Daniels, John Benjamin Hickey (as Truman's lover, the out-of-his-element Jack Dunphy), gay faves Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) and Bond hunk Daniel Craig as the killers at the center of In Cold Blood, and even a musical cameo by Gwyneth Paltrow (who starred in writer-director Douglas McGrath's Emma). Most enjoyable is the quartet of Sigourney Weaver, Juliet Stevenson, Hope Davis and Isabella Rossellini as Truman's gossipy, high-society intimates.

But it is Toby Jones' portrayal of Capote that commands — and demands — attention. As fine as Hoffman was in the role, Jones is marvelous and certainly more physically accurate. He makes Truman more colorful, especially during a scene where he regales small-town Kansas dinner party guests with name-dropping accounts of his Hollywood exploits, as well as slightly more sympathetic during the tense build-up to Perry Smith's execution.

Speaking of Smith, the homosexual tension between the convicted killer and his literary confessor is more substantial here than in Capote. Craig is both alluring and dangerous, which becomes fully evident during a scene where he attempts to rape Truman. The pair also share a passionate kiss. I don't know how historically accurate these are, but they certainly fit the psychosexual dynamic explored here.

So, go rent or download Infamous ASAP. It could also be fun to watch it and Capote in conjunction with each other. Be sure to weigh in here with your reactions. Truman would likely welcome as much controversy as possible!

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.


  1. I agree with you. I really enjoyed this film. I'd watch it again.

  2. I think it's greater than "Capote". And for sure, the real Truman would love "Infamous" better.

  3. Thanks for your feedback, guys! For a truly well-rounded Truman Capote experience, one must watch/re-watch the hilarious 1976 spoof "Murder by Death," in which he plays the nefarious Lionel Twain!

  4. Agree, "Infamous" is where it's at. "Capote" left me slightly drained after watching it, not with "Infamous" though. The scenes with Toby Jones and Craig were delicious.