Film Reviews

INFAMOUS

By • Oct 13th, 2006 •

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Warner Independent / Killer Films / John Wells Prods.
MPAA rating R

Authentic. Not the snotty, consumer version of Hoffman’s CAPOTE.

INFAMOUS is far superior to the material – plowed already – in last year’s Oscar winning CAPOTE.

Apparently, the writing of “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote is fascinating. Yet, as I already discussed in my review of CAPOTE, Phillip Seymour Hoffman toned down the famous man’s well-known, well-recognized, well-rehearsed persona. The irritating high-pitched shrill was “implied” in CAPOTE. The tiny man’s exaggerated mannerisms were merely suggested. Hoffman played Capote as uptight and prissy.

English actor Toby Jones does not attempt to turn Capote into a character the audience can relate to. Jones is fearless in delving into the snobbery that Capote – born dirt poor – cultivated and cloaked himself in as he climbed the social ladder. He was everyone’s toy pet. He prided himself in being unusual. It became his signature.

Capote’s high camp caricature began eclipsing his talent as a writer. Until he read a newspaper article about the murder of four members of the Clutter family.

Truman Capote took his frailty, small frame and cracked, female voice and made himself into a sensation. He was fawned over by rich and powerful women. He got calls from the Queen Mother. He knew every Hollywood star. He knew secrets and shared them indiscriminately.

Yet, the story of a rural, meaningless killing in Kansas of the Clutter family inspires Capote. He leaves the tuxedo and New York socialites for farm country. He takes his childhood friend, the soon-to-be-lionized Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock), to backwater Holcomb, Kansas. Everyone is shocked by Capote’s flamboyant manner. It takes him some time to bring the common folk around. He throws out names like Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra. Pretty soon, he’s got the townsfolk giving him all he needs for a book.

When the two killers, Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) and Dick Hickock (Lee Pace), are captured, Capote quickly gets Hickock to talk about the murders for a piece of the book’s royalties. But Smith will have nothing to do with helping Capote turn him into a monster and freak. Smith wants sympathy and understanding. Capote needs Smith’s side of the story and he is forced to actually “seduce” him with kindness.

The film folds in interviews with the famous people that knew Capote during this time: author Gore Vidal (Michael Panes), Capote’s editor Bennett Cerf (Peter Bogdanovich), and those couture-wearing ladies Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver), Princess Marella Agnelli (Isabella Rossellini), socialite Slim Keith (Hope Davis), and Vogue editor Diana Vreeland (Juliet Stevenson – doing a superb job channeling another self-made character). These socialites created the aura around Capote and he repaid them all by writing an article that revealed their secrets and humiliations. Summarily, he became a pariah.

But now I know why he did it. He was finally getting even with his mother for abandoning him and then committing suicide. The final insult of definitive abandonment. The over-the-top fey affectations were a punishment meted out to his father. It all makes sense now.

Capote senses Smith’s vulnerabilities and weaves a relationship that eventually turns to attraction. And why not? Smith is dangerous, a killer, ultra-violent and masculine. He fancies himself a man with artistic and intellectual gifts. Capote plays on this to good effect. When Smith’s and Hickock’s death sentence gets delayed five years, Capote turns frustrated. He cannot publish his book until they are dead.

In CAPOTE, Capote was more ruthless towards abandoning Smith after he is done with him; in INFAMOUS, Capote actually falls in love with Smith and is tormented by his selfishness. He loves Smith but wants both men to die.

Jones’ performance is brilliant. Regrettably, Hoffman nabbed the Oscar. Bullock turns in a wonderful, muted performance that, if she continues picking roles like this, will reward her with her own Oscar (since she’ll never get it for THE LAKE HOUSE mush). The director, Douglas McGrath, who also wrote the screenplay (based on the book by George Plimpton), gives a visually stunning picture of rural Kansas – stark and worn, with folks void of superficiality.


Credits:
Screenwriter-director: Douglas McGrath
Based on the book by: George Plimpton
Producers: Christine Vachon, Jocelyn Hayes, Anne Walker-McBay
Executive producer: John Wells
Director of photography: Bruno Delbonnel
Production designer: Judy Becker
Music: Rachel Portman
Costumes: Ruth Myers
Editor: Camilla Toniolo

Cast:
Truman Capote: Toby Jones
Harper Lee: Sandra Bullock
Perry Smith: Daniel Craig
Dick Hickock: Lee Pace
Bennett Cerf: Peter Bogdanovich
Alvin Dewey: Jeff Daniels
Slim Keith: Hope Davis
Peggy Lee: Gwyneth Paltrow
Marella Angelli: Isabella Rossellini
Diana Vreeland: Juliet Stevenson
Babe Paley: Sigourney Weaver

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