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"Capote"

Directed by Bennett Miller.
Written by Dan Futterman.  Based on the book by Gerald Clarke.
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr. and Chris Cooper.

Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  10/26/2005

Folks--

Even if you don't follow the movie business all that much, you have probably heard rumblings about the lead performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role of "Capote"...but who would have thought there was so much more to the movie?

Based on a book by Gerald Clarke, "Capote" tells the true story of writer Truman Capote (Hoffman) in 1959, soon after the success of his bestselling novel Breakfast at Tiffany's has made him one of the hottest scribes in America.  As a writer for The New Yorker, Capote decides to write a story based on the lives of those affected by a brutal group murder at a home in small-town Kansas...and, instead of a human interest piece that might span a few pages, Capote and his research partner, "To Kill a Mockingbird" writer Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), uncover a story so big and one that runs so long that Capote turns the story into his most famous book and one that takes almost five years to write.  The story, a "non-fiction novel" called In Cold Blood, focuses on the exploits of the two criminals involved, Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) and Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.).  Capote spends most of his time with Smith after the two men are convicted; the interviews that he conducts with Smith are the driving force of the film, as is Capote's incredible self-absorption and peculiar lifestyle.

All the hype coming in was certainly about Hoffman's nuanced performance, and it's almost impossible to describe that performance without actually seeing it yourself.  I didn't see a single trailer for this film, and I'm glad, because it almost ruins the surprise of seeing Hoffman play this character.  Needless to say, he is excellent...but far and away, the best performance of the film belongs to long-time character actor Collins, who should certainly see his first Oscar nomination come out of this work, work that is beautiful to behold and eventually achieves the personal side of what drives a criminal to be the way that he is.  As Smith, Collins--he's shown up in a litter of films, but I remember him from "Traffic", "The Last Castle" and a quick stint in "Alias"--has some of the film's best moments, and he just feels so dangerous all film long as he stares down Capote and his constant badgering about the fateful night in question.  Dangerous, but still aware of his situation and hopeful that he will be immortalized in Capote's novel; I was just blown away by how strong the Collins performance was in relation to similarly good work by Chris Cooper as the quiet town's sheriff, Keener, and Hoffman.

I love how quiet a film "Capote" is; I love the mix of quick cuts with long master shots of conversation between two characters by never leaving one person or the other; the cinematography was also excellent.  Continuing an October trend, this one is another film that I learned something from (following "Good Night, and Good Luck") and if I read more books I would certainly run out and pick this one up to find out more about the killers.  Even imagining this small man with the quite-feminine voice and the live-in boyfriend (played here by Bruce Greenwood) being THE man of the moment in the late 50s and early 60s is a shock to the system...to believe that it is real mostly comes due to the presence of Hoffman channeling the character as the life of the artistic party.

Good stuff all around.  Another one that will be a surefire contender for end-of-year awards.

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09