Sunday, November 06, 2005

This could make people think of Dustin as "the other Hoffman": "Capote"

Rare is the movie that makes you want to read a book afterward. I mean, that's why I go to movies: so I don't have to read. As soon as subtitles come on the screen, I think, "Well, damn."

I actually did read "In Cold Blood" several years ago ... in my early 20s, I think. Great book, although the significance was lost on me then. In an era when true crime nonfiction books are pretty common, it's hard to fathom that style of writing as never existing. Yet that apparently was the case in the 1960s before Capote unleashed the story of a Kansas farm family's murder on the masses.

"Capote" gives us insight to the man behind the book as he discovers the story of the Clutters and, more importantly, the two men who killed them. After starting with the discovery of the bodies, we follow Capote as he treks from New York to Kansas -- and subsequently back and forth several times -- during the investigation, trial and long wait for execution. (Oops, spolier. Yeah, they were guilty.)

More notable than the plot is Capote as a character, with "character" a colossal understatement. Having neither seen nor heard Truman Capote myself, it's hard for me to say how dead-on Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Patch Adams") is in the title role. What I can say is that he's damn good at showing a strange man who seems out of place yet somehow commands attention whenever he's in a room. He also impressively conveys Capote's purpose in documenting the murder case -- that is, Capote's selfish bid for glory under the guise of being truly interested in everyone involved in the situation.

Other players are solid, too -- Catherine Keener ("Death to Smoochy" as Capote's friend and fellow author Harper Lee; Chris Cooper ("Breast Men") as the local sheriff; and Clifton Collins Jr. ("Road Dogz") as killer Perry Smith. But this is Hoffman's show, and if you thought he was good in other stuff, he's even better here. The best aspect may be how Hoffman carries out Capote's dance with Smith, befriending and even falling in love with the killer -- Capote was gay, not that there's anything wrong with that -- while staying focused on what he needs to hear to write the book he was meant to write ... and build on his fame.

I've liked Hoffman pretty much from the time I saw him in "Boogie Nights." ("I'm a f*ckin' idiot! I'm a f*ckin' idiot!") Since then, he's played all sorts of fun roles. Consider 1998, when he had a little part in "The Big Lebowski" and a main role in "Happiness." Or the next year, when he was a spoiled rich kid in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and a male nurse in "Magnolia." Then you've got bit parts in "Almost Famous," "Punch-Drunk Love" ... even "Along Came Polly." He's hilarious in that movie! "Raindrops!"

As for other lead roles, I hear "Flawless" and "Owning Mahowny" are pretty good, but I guess "Capote" might be the first time I've seen him be the big man on the movie poster. Well, he deserves it, and it's a safe bet they'll be talking about him come Oscar time. If not, well, they're f*ckin' idiots. F*ckin' idiots!


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