(R) 4 Stars
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote
While there is a good bit about Truman Capote (author of Breakfast at Tiffany's, among others) that is interesting, and slightly scandalous, Capote focuses on the years he spent writing his greatest book, In Cold Blood, the story of a murdered family in Kansas.
This decision is smart. Here we get to see the minutiae that made the man Capote a real piece of work. Upon approaching Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), the Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent who is leading the hunt for the killers, Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), in his affected, child-like, feminine voice, matter of factly states that he doesn't care if the killers are found or not. Later, he surreptitiously investigates the contents of the coffins of the murdered Clutter family. He ingratiates himself to one of the killers, Perry (Clifton Collins Jr.), even showing immense compassion by spoon-feeding him baby food to nurse him back to health while he sits on death row, but almost immediately, in the next scene, Capote describes Perry as a "gold mine."
These are just some of the examples that make Capote a fascinating subject. Combine Capote's idiosyncrasies and the story behind his novel In Cold Blood, and you have a movie that is a low-key thriller.
Hoffman's Capote is as big a queen as Elizabeth II without any of the grace. Audacious and self-centered, the world seemingly revolves around him.
As much of a character, even caricature, as Hoffman is in this movie, he somehow remains believable. And although he is surrounded by luminaries in New York's high society - including Harper Lee (Catherine Keener, in an under-used role), author of To Kill a Mockingbird and his friend since childhood - he is always the center of attention.
Director Bennett Miller keeps scenes intense, slow and detailed, which balances out the large and sudden jumps in time. For example, the trial is skirted in favor of getting to the crux of Perry and Capote's relationship. Writer Dan Futterman (who based the work on a book by Gerald Clarke) only gives us what he thinks is important, and Miller lets us know how important the material is through his loving treatment.