Infamous

2006, Movie, R, 118 mins

Review

INFAMOUS
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Though doomed to be known as the other Capote movie, UK theater director Douglas McGrath's INFAMOUS isn't a Johnny-come–lately coattail rider to Bennett Miller-Dan Futterman's CAPOTE (2005), which won star Philip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar for his performance as the flamboyant author. Both projects were in development at the same time and derive from different sources, respectively Gerald Clarke's Capote and George Plimpton's oral history Truman Capote. The raw material — the writing of Capote's true-crime "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood, which simultaneously made his career and destroyed him personally — is the same, but the emphasis is different. New York, 1959: Truman Capote (English stage actor Toby Jones, who bears a striking physical resemblance to the diminutive writer) is the toast of cafe society, a critically acclaimed novelist whose rapier wit and sympathetic ear enchant a flock of high-flying "swans," fashionable, well-connected ladies like Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver), Marella Agnelli (Isabella Rossellini) and Nancy "Slim" Keith (Hope Davis). But a newspaper item about the murder of a prominent, well-respected Kansas farm family, the Clutters, lures him from high-society schmoozing and changes his life forever. AccompanSanied by childhood friend Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock) — soon to be famous as the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird — Capote descends on conservative, small-town Holcomb, Kansas, to write a New Yorker piece on the murders and comes away, six years later, with a book that delves into the lives of the victims, the investigators — notably stolid, implacably decent Alvin Dewey (Jeff Daniels), — and the killers, rootless drifters Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) and Dick Hickock (Lee Pace). Though INFAMOUS' release was delayed almost a year to distance it from CAPOTE, it's impossible not to compare performances and approaches. Overall, McGrath's film has superior star power (including Gwyneth Paltrow in a one-scene role as a Peggy Lee-like chanteuse), is franker about the sexual nature of Capote's fascination with the murderous Smith and his sad, strangled dreams, and spends more time establishing Capote's glittering New York life before setting him adrift in the heartland. Though Hoffman's dazzling performance (which transcends physical resemblance — the actor is easily twice Capote's size) gives CAPOTE greater depth and resonance, both feature a cast of characters who are truly stranger than fiction and raise questions about the packaging of real-life events that resonate more powerfully than ever in the infotainment age, when the line between fact and fiction is so thoroughly blurred that the sharpest eye is hard put to find it. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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