Directed by Douglas McGrath
Warner Independent Pictures
Now armed with an Oscar and countless film festival awards,
Philip Seymour Hoffman certainly seems to have nailed the role of
Truman Capote in last year’s aptly titled “Capote.” One year later,
another film emerges that chronicles the era in which Capote lived.
Despite the period overlap between the two films, “Infamous” should not
be missed on account of its contextual similarities to “Capote.”
Adapted from George Plimpton’s 1997 novel “Truman Capote” by
writer/director Douglas McGrath (“Emma”), “Infamous” covers the same
ground as “Capote,” but does so at a fanciful, almost comical pace.
British actor Tobey Jones steps in to play Truman Capote, joined by a frumpified Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee.
The first portion of the movie, which takes place in Manhattan,
focuses on Truman and his high-society friends—Hope Davis (“The
Matador”), Sigourney Weaver, and even Gwyneth Paltrow as a lounge
singer. McGrath takes us deep within Capote’s upper-class social
environment through his rendering of at-once exuberant and breathtaking
When Capote reads about the terrible and gruesome murder of
the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas he—and Lee—board a train bound
for the town. Though his initial intent is to write an article for The
New Yorker, Capote finds ample material for an entire book; the rest of
the movie focuses on his obsessive drive to create “a new type of
What has earned “Infamous” attention, beyond its substantial
similarity to “Capote,” is its presumption of a close relationship
between Capote and killer Perry Smith—a character played by the newest
James Bond, Daniel Craig. Capote’s maddening fascination with Perry
even culminates in an on-screen kiss—new territory for 007.
And yet, Capote remains the heart of the story; McGrath
understands his particular appeal and manages to weave a captivatingly
introspective tale about the legendary writer.
But while McGrath draws excellent performances from Jones and
Bullock—who captures Lee’s own anxiety at being unable to produce a
work to rival “To Kill a Mockingbird”—the film is otherwise uneven.
Spliced throughout are interviews—conducted by an anonymous
questioner—with some of Capote’s closest friends. The interviews, which
contain external observations about Capote and his relationship with
Smith, seem better suited to the History Channel, and interrupt the
narrative flow of the feature film.
Craig’s hesitant performance also contributes to the
occasionally flawed nature of the film. Despite Jones’ small stature
and soft voice, he manages to bring a confident, lofty aura to Capote
that stands in stark contrast to Craig’s uninspired efforts. Let’s hope
for Bond’s sake that Craig can handle that role with more aplomb in the
upcoming “Casino Royale.”
Yet despite performative missteps and the unintegrated
secondary source material, “Infamous” deserves more than an existence
in the shadows of “Capote.” Indeed, “Infamous” is a compelling film
that portrays Capote as a man struggling mightily not only with his own
ideology and craft—from his storytelling tactics to the subject
matter—but also with his personal demons.
Bottom Line: Even
thought it may be hard for you to forget Hoffman’s stunning performance
in “Capote,” don’t neglect this valuable iteration.
—Reviewer Jessica C. Coggins can be reached at email@example.com.