Film Rec: Capote (2005)

The Grammy nominations were announced yesterday. I will get into them more on Saturday, but I'll tease with this: I was completely blindsided. W?T?F? just happened to the nominations? National Board of Review announced its film winners today, and that list makes me happy. It indicates the race is far more interesting than anticipated and that Clint Eastwood might once again sneak in and grab away the glory ala Million Dollar Baby with Grand Torino. I'm allowed to gloat, since I've said it for months and people have literally laughed in my face (or lol'd at my screen; close enough). Film Rec: Capote (2005) I think anyone who has paid any attention at all to my blogs over the years has come to the realization that I have a strange taste in films. I see the near-inherent value and ignored skill behind horror films. I gravitate towards epic foreign films about a family coming together for dinner one night that last 3+ hours. I seek out strange documentaries just for the thrill of being able to discuss a random topic at the next hipster-filled party I attend; someone needs to put those NYC too-cool-to-nerd peeps in their place. It might as well be an actual nerd. But I'm not foolish, either. There is something to be said about executing a far simpler film concept flawlessly. A well done biopic, for example, can easily outshine even the most ambitious period drama or laser sighted indie quirk in a given year. For me, that case has never been clearer than with Capote. Capote is just one in a long history of films screwed over during awards season because all of the attention went to the main performer in the film. It's not a traditional biopic, since it only covers a brief period of time in the life of Truman Capote. If anything, it's a magnificent adaptation of what is arguably still the greatest true crime book (In Cold Blood by way of Gerald Clarke's book Capote) ever penned in the English language. From the moment Capote leaves his lavish big city lifestyle to meet with the accused murderer of a Kansas family behind bars, you know Dan Futterman and Gerald Clarke have created something honest. Capote isn't presented in a flattering, Vaseline smeared lens like many other recent subjects of biopics. No. He is portrayed as a man simply out to get himself further ahead than he already is. He will create a new genre of literature (the much maligned by literary agents "Non-Fiction Novel") or he will do it. There is no alternative. Which is where the simplicity kicks into high gear. Capote is portrayed as befriending the murderer, almost loving him in a relationship that could never be reciprocated. Better still is his friendship with Harper Lee, using her a sounding board for his concerns and a release mechanism for stress. As Capote becomes more and more involved in the case, you can watch the hints that the veneer is cracking and something will change forever. The conclusion is inevitable, as the book is so widely known and the facts so well documented that any viewer with the remotest sense of Truman Capote knows what will happen. Yet the journey still works. You are transported to the moment by the screenplay, because the screenplay recreated the period, characters, and style so well it's mind boggling. If anything, perhaps the film is too subtle, as many do view it just as a showcase for Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and to a lesser extent Catherine Keener. The final reel is absolutely heartbreaking because it feels real. Yes, part of it must be attributed to the performances; Hoffman is darn near perfect as Capote. But Toby Jones turns in almost as strong of a performance in 2006's Infamous (also based on a biography of Truman Capote with emphasis on the In Cold Blood case) and that film doesn't work nearly as well. The fact is: Hoffman, Keener, the cast, the crew, the director, everyone involved in Capote could not have done as well as they did without that screenplay. It's a masterwork of subtlety and simplicity. It follows every rule yet stands unique. It's practically perfect in every way. I cannot stress enough my recommendation of Capote. I would honestly say buy it if you have any interest at all in the man or In Cold Blood. Rent it otherwise, though I have a feeling you may be inclined to purchase it once you finish watching it for the third time. To me, it was undeniably the best film of 2005.

Labels: film rec