From Kansas to the Costa Brava

Capote


Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins, Jr
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Written by: Dan Futterman

Already heaped with critical acclaim from several North American Film Critics Associations, director Bennett Miller’s fascinating film, Capote, tells the story of the American author Truman Capote obsessive struggle in researching and writing a novel on the true story of a horrific crime that happened in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. Philip Seymour Hoffman deservedly won an Oscar for best actor for his stunning, camp and brilliant portrayal of the great American writer Truman Capote. His nuanced, and almost understated performance ranging from mental anguish to drunken witticisms is perfectly balanced against the stark performances of the convicts, especially Clifton Collins, Jr as Perry Smith.

Capote, a respected writer for the New Yorker, first sees an article on the brutal killings of a respected Kansas family, the Clutters, in which the parents and the son and daughter were bound up and shot in their bedrooms. At the time, the crime was so horrific, it shocked the small Kansas farming community. Capote develops a morbid fascination with the case and once the two killers are caught, extends this fascination into an unusual bond with the killers, who have been incarcerated in Kansas City. Catherine Keener plays the author, Harper Lee, whose famous novel To Kill A Mocking Bird is about to be published. Lee and Capote are close friends, and she accompanies him to the stark, flat plains of rural Kansas, providing clear observations of the murder case. Bennett Miller beautifully contrasts the almost debauched world of the New York literary circle, where Capote holds court after many drinks at various social gatherings with the cold landscape of crime scene investigation, incarceration and sentencing of the killers in Kansas City.

Capote’s obsession with the murders and the killers, especially Perry Smith takes its toll on him psychologically and emotionally, and this is where Hoffman’s performance is just superb. At the urging of his lover Jack Dunphy, portrayed by Bruce Greenwood, Capote takes a break in the Costa Brava in Spain to recuperate and write what would become his most famous novel, In Cold Blood, the story of the Clutter murders.

Capote is a heavy going film, yet a fascinating study of a writers research into a shocking crime and the subsequent punishment of the perpetrators. Hoffman deserves the Oscar for his excellent and complex portrayal of Capote, as he certainly carries the movie through the journey of investigation, obsession and deterioration, while producing a seminal novel, which would make him one of the most respected writers in the American literary world. This film is highly recommended, but not for the faint hearted or the uninformed.

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