on September 30, 2005 by Kevin Courrier
In "Capote," Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a deeply fascinating and illuminating character study of the legendary writer and raconteur Truman Capote ("Breakfast at Tiffany's"). Rather than simply donning the fey mannerisms and outrageous wardrobe of this acclaimed scribe, Hoffman instead nestles more snugly beneath the surface charm of this Southern celebrity to reveal something of Capote's conflicted soul. It's a remarkably complex performance in an equally remarkable movie.

Set in 1959, "Capote" focuses on the origins of Truman Capote's landmark crime book, "In Cold Blood." After reading an article in The New York Times about the senseless murder of the Clutters, a simple farm family from Holcomb, Kansas, Capote decides to investigate the crime with the hope of writing an original non-fiction novel on the case. Accompanied by childhood friend and author Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), he sets out for Kansas to investigate. When the two killers are caught, however, Capote develops an empathetic identification with one of them. Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.), who shares Capote's artistic sensitivity and loneliness, ultimately becomes an unwitting alter-ego to the novelist. "Capote" examines with a richly textured clarity how that relationship both enhanced "In Cold Blood" and tore apart the man who composed it.

Bennett Miller, whose previous film ("The Cruise") was an incisively compelling portrait of the New York tour guide Timothy "Speed" Levitch, demonstrates sharply honed instincts for character drama. Miller deftly illustrates how Capote's narcissism was virtually inseparable from his innate curiosity as a journalist. Capote's bond with Perry Smith, in other words, was borne of both self-serving and artistic impulses. If "In Cold Blood" drew an enigmatic picture of an America both as rooted and as uprooted as the killers, "Capote" gives us a riveting depiction of an artist who desperately straddled the border between those two worlds. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Mark Pellegrino and Chris Cooper. Directed by Bennett Miller. Written by Dan Futterman. Produced by Caroline Baron, Michael Ohoven and William Vince. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Drama. Rated R for some violent images and brief strong language. Running time: 110 min

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