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"Certainly as good [as Capote] and a lot more fun. Toby Jones is so physically right, you'll think Capote is playing himself." - Jack Mathews, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS 1959 Manhattan was a party, and none of the glitterati glittered brighter than Truman Capote. Then he saw a story in The New York Times: "Wealthy Farmer, 3 of Family Slain," and the party ended for Capote. He plunged into the murder case that inspired his great "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood and led him into a fevered relationship with one of the two doomed killers. But there's more to the story than you know. Toby Jones (as Capote) leads Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, Sigourney Weaver and many more stars in a witty, moving and astonishing tale of obsession. What happened to the extraordinary literary talent that burned within Truman Capote? The answer may be found in a story at once famous and Infamous.
Infamous is inevitably compared to Capote, since it also chronicles author Truman Capote's spiral into chaos while composing his masterpiece, In Cold Blood, a breakthrough non-fictional tale told as fiction. It's a shame that Capote's critical acclaim eclipsed this film's, as Toby Jones is perfectly convincing as Capote, with his small stature and eccentric manner. Infamous mimics the novel's fictionalized non-fiction, opening on "interviews" with Capote's New York friends like Diana Vreeland (Juliet Stevenson) and Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver). The film, set in 1959, begins with Capote's discovery of the farm family murder story and his trek out to Kansas with confidant, Nelle Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock). Stressing Capote's relationships with Lee, the film justifies Capote's marginal behavior by Lee's speaking about Capote's childhood neglect, which she also wrote into To Kill A Mockingbird. Capote's own description of his rough childhood then serves as a barrier breaker between himself and Perry Smith (Daniel Craig), the half of the Perry Smith-Dick Hickock killing team who is at first unwilling to talk. Infamous makes much of the sexual tension between Capote and Smith, implying that Capote persevered through his project for Smith's love. Based on George Plimpton's oral biography, Infamous deserves a stellar place in Capote-lore, as there is ample room for both competing films. --Trinie Dalton
- Commentary by writer/director Douglas McGrath
- Theatrical trailer
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Top Customer Reviews
Purists undoubtedly take to 'Capote' as the superior film and lambaste 'Infamous' as a pretender to the throne, but what they are missing out on are the intriguing differences in perspective that the two films have. It is here that 'Infamous' earns its merits, but also where its defining flaw comes into play: that it is too afraid to risk making Truman an unsympathetic character. 'Capote' gets at the heart of the deviousness inherent in Truman's dealings with Perry Smith and Dick Hickock (the killers on death row whose stories, along with those of their victims, comprise 'In Cold Blood') -- how he used and abused their friendship and trust in order to write his masterpiece. Philip Seymour Hoffman's Truman Capote is an egotistical liar that sells his soul for his story, made sympathetic by Hoffman's careful portrayal and by the fact that his cruelty causes him to spiral into drink, depression, and ruin for the rest of his life. The makers of 'Infamous' shy away from this aspect of Capote, choosing to go for sympathy instead. His deceit is only mentioned in passing -- with the effect that you wouldn't notice it if you weren't looking for it. This Truman really cares for Perry Smith, and the film posits that what ruined him after the executions was the loss of the one person he had ever truly connected with. This Truman is a victim of his book's conclusion rather than culpable in it. It's an interesting theory, but it holds less weight and feels toothless. I don't know enough about the facts to speculate as to whether or not the sexual tension that develops between the writer and the convict is accurate, but it does add an element of intrigue to the story.
The relationship between Truman and Perry in 'Infamous' adds a layer to the characterization of the author that was missing from 'Capote': that he was really a damaged, insecure man at heart, and had been ever since his childhood. The bravado, the confidance, the wit, and the eloquence that Manhattan's high society adore him for is a mask that he has put on to hide how he really feels about himself. His entire personality is an affectation, and his carefully maintained social life is artifice. Other reviewers have criticized 'Infamous' for being too stylized, but I think that they were trying to show how fake his life in New York was -- and in my humble opinion they succeeded. Toby Jones' portrayal is, as such, less natural than Hoffman's, but is perfectly suited to this intention of the filmmakers and succeeds in its own right. Had 'Infamous' come before 'Capote' Jones may have been more recognized for his work with an Oscar nomination of his own, but as I said earlier, timing has not been kind to 'Infamous'. Anyway, Truman and Perry make a connection because they can be who they really are around each other: Perry can talk about his lonely, abusive childhood and desire to be an artist, while Truman can let his guard down and stop acting like a "wind-up doll" (to use a term from the movie). 'Capote' gets at the heart of Truman's duplicity, but 'Infamous' gets at the heart of his insecurity.
The two film's really work as companion pieces, then, so I would encourage everyone to get over their prejudice and look at the two film's as two different sides of one of America's most distinctive voices. It is fitting that a personality as outsized as Truman Capote's couldn't be captured by only one film, and he would probably be pleased to know that that is the case.
Sandra Bullock gives a wonderfully controlled performance as Capote's lifelong friend Harper Lee, who after the success of "To Kill a Mockingbird" never published another novel and left New York to return to her childhood home in Alabama, where fate provided a much more congenial retreat from the limelight. "Who knows what the heart wants," she remarks sadly at the end of the film, "and who can defend themselves against it?" And while the film treats its subject with a certain playfulness, reflected in a mostly cheerful and larky soundtrack, it is finally the story of a broken heart. The DVD has a very cogent and informative commentary by writer-director Douglas McGrath. Definitely worth watching, even if you've seen "Capote." Side by side, they demonstrate nicely Capote's own vision of truth as it's found in creative nonfiction.