“You know, I’ve decided on a title for my book.
I think you’ll like it. It’s very masculine.
In Mother****in’ Cold Blood, Bitch. Isn’t that dope?”

Monster’s Ink

BANG! A family massacre. What do you think of a person who’s capable of doing that? Raise your hand if you’re thinking – “Hey, he/she is probably just like me.” Any cold-blooded takers?

I think it’s just natural to separate ourselves from murderers, but intellects like Truman Capote try to separate themselves from such simpleminded thinking. Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a gifted and popular writer of his times, thinks in a bigger picture. He’s an outside-the-box explorer. In 1959, he arrives in a Kansas town, where a family was massacred. He wants to write an article, but as he investigates, people are leery of him.

Capote talks in a weird voice, his mannerism is somewhat effeminate, and his fashion screams “I’m a sophisticated New Yorker.” But Truman has a way of winning over people; he’s an engaging god of gab. With the help of gal pal Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), the man manages to accumulate the collective response of a town struck by a tragedy.

Events turn more interesting when the supposed perpetrators Perry Smith (Clifton Collins, Jr.) and Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) are caught. Capote jumps at the chance to talk with Perry Smith, who’s more of a portrait of a damaged soul than a soulless killer. The writer profoundly discovers they have a common bond. Capote is hooked and lengthens the article into a novel.

This is a film for the inquisitive. I was curious about Capote, the way Capote was curious of Perry Smith. And what the hell – I was curious about his curiosity too – so cats beware! There’s just something indescribable about him and he touches upon it in one telling scene.

“Ever since I was a child, folks have thought they had me pegged, because of the way I am, the way I talk. And they’re always wrong.”

He’s right. It’s more likely that the man will have you pegged. He is cunningly perceptive and according to him, has the talent of recalling 94% of conversations.

As Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman amazingly disappears in the role. In his first scene, you can tell why he was nominated. But it takes the whole movie to find out why he won Best Actor. The beauty of his performance lies in Dan Futterman’s screenplay. Truman is never a one note quirk; he’s given an emotional arc to struggle with. Hoffman’s mission is to embody a strange man, but must breakthrough that man’s strangeness to humanly connect with the audience. It’s a “mission impossible” accomplished.

In the supporting role, Clifton Collins Jr. is strangely affecting. His Perry Smith is a very sad man and you can understand why he invests his hope creepily on Capote. I mean, think about it. If you’re a nobody and then suddenly, a famous writer wants to articulate your life, wouldn’t you be thrilled? Capote is Smith’s chance of redemption, a chance to be humanized, and yet, in the process, it is Capote who alters into a monster. As author Harper Lee, Catherine Keener plays a steady moral ground for Capote. I’m baffled though as why was she nominated in this role. Don’t raise your hand if you think she does an even better work in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Just as I thought – majority rules.

I wish there are more biopics like “Capote,” where it captures a man’s essence in a matter of few years, not in bloated decades. Director Bennett Miller strives for a muted mood, with Mychael Danna lazily providing a one-piano-key-at-the-time music. The film can be somber, but far from boring due to Hoffman’s performance. I just wish the film had more impact or just something more I couldn’t describe. At least, there’s always the nonfiction novel “In Cold Blood” to enrich the story even further. No, it’s not “the end” yet.

Grade: A-

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Mark Pellegrino, Amy Ryan, Allie Mickelson, Marshall Bell, Araby Lockhart
Screenplay by
Dan Futterman
Based on the book Capote by
Gerald Clarke
Directed by
Benneth Miller
Rated R for some violent images and brief strong language