2005 / Best Actor / Best Director / Best Picture / Best Supporting Actress

Film #420: Capote (2005)

It’s with a tinge of sadness that I settled down to watch the next nominee on the list, Capote; one of the few 21st century Best Picture nominees I’d not seen before. Obviously this is due to the fact that last year we lost the man who played the lead role of Truman Capote, the excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The film concentrates on Capote’s life after he became a household name thanks to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and follows him during the creation of his famous non-fiction work In Cold Blood. From the start of the film, director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman present the difference between Truman’s life of alcohol-fuelled parties and the stark brutal world of the murder of four members of the Clutter family. As Truman is fascinated by the murders, he travels to Kansas alongside his friend Harper Lee where he attempts to craft and article about the incident. However, Futterman’s real focus is on Truman’s fascination with Perry Smith who, along with Dick Hickock, is found guilty of the crime. Whilst occasionally Truman’s obsession with Perry is presented as somewhat of a romantic leaning, it appeared to me as if the film was suggesting that the author’s fascination was with the criminal’s conflicting character. Although charged with four murders, Perry appeared ever so sensitive, was a brilliant artist and appeared to be incredibly eloquent when compared to Dick. As the film progresses, so does Truman’s book however more problems arise when the convicted duo are given a stay of execution. Truman’s desperation for an ending of sorts conflicts with his feelings for Perry and in the end he surmises that there can be only one conclusion.

Having never seen Capote before I didn’t really know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Obviously part of my enjoyment stemmed from Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-winning turn as the eponymous writer. Hoffman’s skill is in not simply doing an impression of Capote but instead playing him as a fully-fledged character. It’s fair to say that Hoffman became Capote to the extent that I forgot at times that I was watching the actor playing the part. Hoffman brilliantly conveyed Capote’s feelings for Perry and how his writing of ‘In Cold Blood’ started to affect him emotionally. For her role as Nelle Harper Lee, Catherine Keener was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress prize; however I didn’t feel that she made that big an impact. If I were to give another acting award for the film then it would go to Clifton Collins Jr. as the charismatic killer Perry Smith. Collins Jr. gave an enigmatic turn as the sensitive murderer whose reluctance to tell his full story was the driving point of the film. Futterman’s screenplay was well-paced and presented the facts in an entertaining manner, ensuring that the audience was never bored. Meanwhile Miller proved himself to be a fine director; transposing Truman’s booze-soaked party life with the cold, harsh reality of the Kansas murders. At just under two hours, Capote was a very easy film to watch and I found myself being wrapped up in the story. At the same time there was nothing particularly remarkable about it outside of Hoffman’s fine central turn. So, while I can understand why the film appeared in the Best Picture category, I never particularly felt that it should’ve won the big prize.


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