Capote | Teen Ink

Capote MAG

April 12, 2015
By Caesar123 DIAMOND, Union Grove, Wisconsin
Caesar123 DIAMOND, Union Grove, Wisconsin
50 articles 7 photos 103 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Madness in great ones must not unwatched go" --Claudius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

It all started with “The Hunger Games.” Not what you were expecting, huh? See, when I first saw Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Catching Fire,” I thought he was a pretty good actor and a good fit to play the character of Pultarch Heavensbee. As a result, I was shocked by his death February 2, 2014. Intrigued by the man and his extensive body of work, I wound up watching his Oscar-winning performance in “Capote.” This film wasn’t like anything I expected or had ever seen, but that didn’t make it bad. On the contrary, I found “Capote” to be a masterful work by both Hoffman and Oscar-nominated director Bennett Miller for the uniqueness in character, tone, and pacing.

The film opens in 1959 New York at a house party, thrown by the white-haired, high-voiced, heavy drinking, heavy smoking, exuberant Truman Capote (Hoffman). A Brooklyn celebrity and author of the beloved and controversial novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Capote, though openly gay and peculiar in look and mannerism, is widely accepted by the New York crowd.

The next morning Capote spots in the paper a report about a family of four that has been slain in rural Kansas: a wealthy farmer, his wife, and two children. Capote decides to travel to the small town of Holcomb to investigate and research an article he intends to write for The New Yorker, inviting his longtime friend and fellow author Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) to join him. There, using Lee as a go-between, Capote gets close to the lead detective, Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), and eventually the alleged killers themselves. As Capote’s research progresses, he develops a connection with one of the killers, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.), and decides to make the killings the subject of his next (and ultimately final) book, In Cold Blood. What ensues is an extensive saga of Capote balancing his desire to write his book while retaining his unlikely friendship with Smith, a process that gets more and more difficult as the case progresses.

The primary aspect that struck me (and apparently the Academy) about “Capote” was Hoffman’s performance. If you saw him in “Catching Fire,” well then throw all of that away, because he’s not even close to the same person in “Capote.” The large and in charge, low-voiced Pultarch is replaced by the quaint, slight, bleach-haired Truman with horn-rimmed glasses and an instantly recognizable high-pitched voice. The difference is so shocking that if not aware beforehand, one might not recognize Hoffman at all. He makes the audience buy into Capote immediately and completely, and he continues the stunning performance right through to the finish.

Director Bennett Miller must also be applauded for the unique style he brings to the film. From the slightly off lighting that makes various scenes seem like they’re in shades of black, white, or gray, to the smart dialogue, to the fantastic pacing between conversation, action, and suspense, Miller does it all brilliantly. In his unique style he faithfully fuses the elements of Capote’s early Southern Gothic work and the journalistic true crime feel of his later work into a story that is gripping, terrifying, and at a certain level relatable.

And that is one of major driving factors in Capote: his empathetic situation. To many he is an outsider, a misfit, a weirdo. However, he seems to be generally a good man who is kind and considerate to those he meets. Capote is dedicated to his work and takes pride in it. However, he falls short of perfection in his eventual callousness and manipulation of Smith in order to make In Cold Blood the best (and best-selling) book it can be.

“Capote” is much more than “just another film” or some snooty art piece that the Oscars love to endorse year after year. It’s an interesting look into the idea of character, of the human psyche when it begins to advance its own cause, and of what people do to cope with loss and move forward.

I give it 5/5 stars. 


This film is rated R.

The author's comments:

A great movie about a great American author. Check it out!

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