Sometimes you can’t help developing a deep relationship with someone you really should be avoiding. You find yourself drawn to their character despite glaring flaws. Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) develops a serious relationship with convicted murderer Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) in Capote.


Upon hearing of a vicious murder of a family in Kansas, Capote, a writer for The New Yorker, decides to write a piece on the investigation and murder. Yet, as he discovers more and more about the case, he finds that he will have to expand his story into a novel. He begins to become acquainted with the killers, particularly Smith, and ends up writing In Cold Blood, a non-fiction novel that would (re)define the genre.

Unknowingly, I watched two films – Moneyball and Capote – directed by Bennett Miller back-to-back, which has allowed me to get a sense of what could be considered his style: slow and quiet. His is the style aficionados drool over, as amazing and one everyone should love. Even watching Capote, I got the sense that this is a well-made film, but that didn’t prevent me from disliking it.

Miller tends to shy away from big scores and background music to focus more on the acting and content of the film. While this has allowed him to direct four actors/actresses to Oscar nominations – and one win, but more on that later – it is not conducive to a thrilling film. Capote is agonizingly slow. There is simply no other way to put it. The film feels incredibly long and drawn out to the point where you check your watch and find it has only been a half hour.

The story has the potential to be interesting in the conversations between Capote and Smith, but the focus is always on Capote and his narcissistic lifestyle. He turns everything back to himself, no matter the situation. Personally, I’ve never seen an interview with the actual Capote, or read his work, so this is my impression from the film. He enjoys the art of name-dropping and has a cornucopia of stories, but does not have a general depth to his character. This is where Hoffman comes in and wins the Oscar

Not only did he lose a considerable amount of weight and drastically alter his voice, Hoffman also conveys the complex emotions of an internally troubled man perfectly. We can see the conflict raging inside about whether or not Capote should actually befriend a death-row inmate. Hoffman alone makes the film worth finishing. Luckily, but also unluckily, Collins is a scene-stealer. He is given less time than he deserves for such an influential character, in my opinion. I’ve always felt that Collins plays his roles bigger than expected from them – see Sunshine Cleaning – and he supports, and opposes, Hoffman’s Capote very well. If Miller had given Smith a bigger role to explicate Capote’s insecurities, the film would have benefited greatly.

However, for Capote, there is no getting beyond the glacial pace and general disinterest. Once the killers are apprehended, the intrigue in the story is sucked from the film and we are left with a man fully immersing himself in writing a novel, which isn’t all that interesting. Much like Tom Hardy in Bronson, Hoffman’s performance is slightly wasted on an otherwise unworthy film.

  1. Other than Hoffman’s acting, this one bored me
    Nice review!

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