Bennett Miller's Capote is a very rich movie. And yet disappointingly lacking. It is the first of two films on the life and persona of famous American writer, intellectual and eccentric homosexual, Truman Capote (the other being Infamous, opening in late 2006). For some reason, they both focus on the process of the writing of "In Cold Blood". It seems to me as bad planning, but it could also be an indication that this story is extremely interesting. Or unique. Or both.
What is most unique, however, is probably the character of Truman Capote. He was arguably the most eccentric celebrity of the 20th century, and an important and outspoken homosexual. Despite not being too prolific, he earned himself a reputation as one of the most skilled writers of his time. "In Cold Blood" was one of his testaments, dubbed as the first 'non-fiction novel'. The question is, does this film capture that richness?
Although Capote is thorough and sincere, it doesn't evoke emotions in the way it should. In an uncanny way, it manages to be both comprehensive and somewhat superficial. The film is at its most interesting portraying and introducing Capote and his scene. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance is striking and funny, but also both flashy and somewhat constrained (which probably comes from the challenge of playing a man who at times appeared as a caricature himself). I have for a long time sung praise for Hoffman, but even though he finally got an Oscar nomination for this role, it isn't one of his best performances. He should have been nominated for either of the following instead: Owning Mahowny, 25th Hour, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Magnolia or Happiness.
The befriending of Capote and the Clutter killers, and the legal process against them turns into something of a downward spiral for the film. Sure, this is intended to the extent that it undoubtedly was just that for Capote himself, but instead of using this process to dig deeper and become more forceful, Capote becomes monotonous and static.
In the end, Capote is an immensely interesting character study. The overall acting is fine, and the film puts light to some thought-provoking issues. Yet its main focal point concerning the Clutter killers is disappointing. Emotionally, it never comes close to what Tim Robbins achieves in Dead Man Walking. And what the character of Truman Capote concerns, there are lots of unexamined territory. What about his exceptional intelligence (this is only barely touched)? The myth concerning whether Capote, and not Lee was the actual writer of "Too Kill a Mockingbird"? And his anything but monogamous sexual life? There are so much to Truman Capote that I didn't find in this film. It's a useful effort, definitely, but I'll be looking forward to Infamous.