Capote (15)

Directed by Bennett Miller, Written by Dan Futterman (screenplay) and Gerald Clarke (book)
Screening at FACT from 24th February 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

I haven't felt so disappointed by something so massively hyped since I first heard the Arctic Monkeys. Ok, so maybe that wasn't all that long ago, but Capote was still pretty disappointing. Like Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash recently, Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role does a great impression of his subject. But I've seen him actually acting in many other films, and been much more impressed.

When a Kansas family were murdered in their home during November 1959, 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' author Truman Capote found himself drawn to the location. He became friends with local investigator Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), and was having dinner with Dewey's family when two suspects were arrested. Capote then developed an ambiguous kind of friendship with Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) and especially Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr). They saw him as a possible route off death row, he saw them as fascinating source material for a unique kind of novel - 'In Cold Blood' - which launched what became known as 'new journalism'.

When someone kills another human being, it is because a unique set of personal circumstances has combined to push them beyond society‘s norms. There are reasons why an estimated 85% of the world's serial killers live in the United States - they just have to be worked-out. Sadly - then as now - murderers were just written-off as 'evil' and disposed of by the law. For his part, Capote promised to return Smith "to the realm of humanity", which is something he partly achieved in his book when he finally got his 'ending' and the desperate duo were themselves murdered by the State of Kansas. But this is not what we see in this film. Instead, we are confronted by scene after scene of Capote dithering over his book, and whether or not he should be helping the convicted murderers. We even see him practically blanking his lifelong friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) at the premiere of 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' - a film that arguably did far more to undermine the death penalty than his own effort.

Smith and Hickock brutally killed a family because Smith and Hickock had led a particular kind of brutal lives. They suffered, their relatives suffered, and the world was robbed of six people. The problems of a self-important guy with a squeaky voice who kept adjusting the rim of his glasses are as nothing in comparison.

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