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STUDIO: Warner Bros.
RUNNING TIME: 118 Minutes
• Commentary by screenwriter/director Douglas McGrath
• Theatrical Trailer
“It’s Capote stirred-up and reheated in the microwave! Love that taste!”
Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, Peter Bogdanovich, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, Sigourney Weaver
Something about the Clutter murders in Kansas stirs something in writer/media gadfly Truman Capote. He heads out from NYC to research the crimes, and he loses his soul in the process.
Damn, this sounds familiar…
"You know, in retrospect agreeing to pose for this dialogue balloon was really fucking stupid."
It seems like every review I’ve read of this film compares it to Capote, so I’ll not spend much time on the comparisons. In fact, save this next part, I’m not even going to mention Capote (the film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, not the man himself. I neglect him, and this review gets real short). Capote’s a better movie. There. Let’s move on.
Infamous inspired no feelings in me whatsoever. It’s a handsomely made film, to be sure, and it’s got a hell of a cast, but it just left me completely cold. In a lot of ways, this feels like the most literate What If… comic book story ever told. What If…Truman Capote was in love with killer Perry Smith, and Smith actually reciprocated? How would that affect the writing of In Cold Blood? That’s an interesting hook, but it just falls completely flat.
The lion’s share of the blame has to go to writer/director Douglas McGrath. He seems like an aggressively smart, interesting man (if the commentary’s any indication). But in telling his work of speculative fiction, he’s all over the place tonally. The first half plays like some weird, New Yorker-inspired take on the fish-out-of-water comedy, Old Ma Kettle and Truman Capote or something like that. Then he adds in Capote’s researching the killings, and out from that you have the burgeoning love between Capote and Smith. And then, you’ve got Capote’s downfall, as his obsession with his story damns him creatively and spiritually. Did that read scatter-shot, because it sure as shit plays that way, and it would even without the clumsy, Reds-inspired interviews with Capote’s contemporaries.
But as much as I’d like to say that had McGrath focused in on any one of these elements he’d have had a stronger film, what’s on display is just not strong enough to merit such a claim. The comedy’s not that funny (how many times must we be treated to Capote being mistaken for a woman? Too many, it seems, and it keeps getting less funny every time), we don’t get enough insight into his research to get a handle on his process or even his skill as a writer, and the love story angle comes off as completely ridiculous, because, and let’s face it, there is no chance in Hell James Bond would be attracted to, what Gore Vidal refers to Capote as early in the film, “a brussel sprout that learned how to talk.”
However, it’s the lack of connection with Capote’s downfall that kills this film. We just don’t feel for him at the end of the picture, and that’s all Toby Jones’ fault. Physically and vocally, he does a spot-on imitation of Truman Capote. But that’s all his work is, an imitation, and when Rich Little can do your job as well as you can, we’ve got trouble, right here in River City. We never get a sense of Capote the man rather than Capote the icon, and on the rare occasions where McGrath’s script offers Jones something meatier to play, it’s dead in the water, harpooned by Jones’ own limitations as an actor; look at his last scene with Smith or any of his interactions with his peers after the execution for proof. You have to at least empathize with Capote on some level for this sucker to work. You don’t, so it doesn’t.
"Sell me straight here, Truman. Is the bowtie any less emasculating than my ascot was, or am I still up ‘No-Dick" Creek?"
Other than all that stuff, the movie’s just super *Insert sarcastic, shit-eating grin here*. The cinematography captures both Capote’s NYC hi-life and the desolate Kansas landscapes with ease. Sandra Bullock, I thought, was pretty good as Harper Lee. Not great, but subdued and understated, a real 180 degrees from anything she’s done previous. In her only scene, Gwyneth Paltrow (doing a thinly veiled version of Peggy Lee) walks off with the movie; her quiet, underplayed breakdown during her routine is affecting in a way the rest of the movie is not. And Daniel “Fuck Connery, I’m the Best 007 Ever” Craig continues to prove what a goddamn good actor he is; he’s alternatively seductive and dangerous, and you completely understand why Capote would find him attractive (although most people do. A buddy of mine thought she saw him in Thailand this summer and flipped out trying to “touch” him. To each his own, I guess). There’s no earthly reason why he’d feel the same way about Capote, but who’s keeping score?
As movies go, this is flat Coca-Cola. If that’s your thing, then go for it, but personally?
(Wait for it)
I’m holding out for the real thing.
Even though this movie was shelved for a while, it looks fantastic, which is really no surprise since it’s not that old. The sound only really gets aggressive during the murder re-enactments; this is a movie about people talking, so it really doesn’t need a DTS digital explosion. And then there’s the packaging…whoever thought floating heads were an attractive way to sell a flick deserves to be shot. I would not watch this movie based on the strength of its shitty cover.
Special features are scant. You got the trailer, which emphasizes the comedic aspects of the film. The Douglas McGrath commentary is really good, though, literate and intelligent. I thought it was more intriguing than the actual movie. McGrath talks all about his inspirations and research for this film, and oddly enough, he never once mentions the name of that “other” movie I have promised not to mention. Best of all, he’s honest about what he thinks works and what doesn’t in the film; it made me wish I liked his movie more.
Great. 007 raping Dobby the House Elf. That’s an image that’ll keep me up nights.
This is really just a mediocre movie. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. I wish I had something more insightful to say, but it’s really that type of film. Maybe it’ll inspire more in you than it did in me.