Directed by: Bennett Miller
Written by: Dan Futterman
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Bruce Greenwood
Even when borrowing some elements of reality, fiction has the cover of being considered outside of the real world. Anything can be interpreted, but with the introduction of the new ideas of writing by this film blurs the line in a way that will impact the protagonist in a harrowing way. Capote allows us to take a peek behind the curtain of one of the most impactful writers in our history detailing the toll it takes to bring forth the first nonfiction novel.
In a small town in Kansas, four people have been murdered, which intrigues Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The famous writer dives into this investigation in hopes to write the very first nonfiction novel, which involves interviewing the killers as they get prepared to be sent to death row.
It’s always fascinating to see what inspires authors to write what they do. I cannot imagine what in the world inspired Stephen King to write his famous book “It,” where an alien being comes to Earth to terrorize children and mostly takes the form of a clown. Capote makes it quite simple by displaying our protagonist skimming the papers and coming across the article detailing the brutal murder in Kansas. In a flash, he decides to put everything else in his life on the side and head over accompanied by Harper Lee (Catherine Keener). The first few interactions Capote has with the people of this town are rocky, as the New Yorker has no clue how things operate in the middle of the country.
The film truly kicks off when Capote sits down with one of the killers in hopes to learn why he murdered the poor family of four. Their conversations drag on for the rest of the feature as a connection begins to form between them as Capote realizes their common upbringing and how they could have swapped shoes. The connection built between the two blurs the line of this novel as the prisoner, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.), believes Capote’s book will help absolve them while the author seeks the truth of the situation. These opposing beliefs begin to take a toll on the protagonist.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, even with smaller roles, steals the show in nearly every appearance, as his presence leaves a mark. Getting the opportunity to lead his own story paid dividends with his work as Truman Capote landing him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Something he should have one a long time ago but it lined up well because he completely morphs into this character. Hoffman can act like a true chameleon, but I particularly love it when he uncontrollably yells in his films because not many can do it like him. As Truman Capote, he brings forth this held back demeanor, who reacts to things by shielding himself from the true emotions he feels. As someone who has never heard Capote speak, the voice Hoffman conjured stunned me but its integral nature of the character made it all blend even still sounding odd coming from this particular actor.
The story of Capote displays the toll this takes on the famous author and how he never conceived the pain of writing something real in the form of a novel. The life of the people involved will forever be altered and the political aspects of the writing of this piece get interesting as the narrative continues. With Capote being perceived as a New York elite, the optics of him coming into this small town in Kansas does not come across well to all people in the area. When Capote does his readings for crowds in large cities, it paints the people of this small town in an unsavory light, but it remains the truth through the eyes of this author. It comes down to perspective, which the film keeps focused on the titular character and how he experiences everything around him. Accompanying Capote for much of the fact-finding is Harper Lee, who happens to be on the brink of publishing the breakout novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Their relationship hinges on one of respect between the two but the book begins to swallow Capote in a way he can only truly connect with the death row inmate.
The pain and toll associated with novelizing the true life of people for entertainment get to the heart of our protagonist and Capote displays that incredibly well. The cinematography focuses on the blues thus making every conversation feel emotionless and cold. The process of writing “In Cold Blood” becomes a haunting experience and one the author will never forget and in the process, we receive the same with the stunning performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
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