At first glance upon seeing the trailer for “Infamous” or reading its plot outline, one might wonder why another film about writer Truman Capote was made and released exactly one year after Philip Seymour Hoffman took home the Oscar for “Capote.” You might ask why do the same thing twice when it has already been done so powerfully with stunning performances from a well-rounded cast?
Interestingly enough, director Douglas McGrath, who is known for writing and directing “Emma” and “Nicholas Nickleby,” and then “Capote”director began filming both their projects within a couple months of each other, but because “Capote” had gotten a head start, Warner delayed the release of “Infamous” so the two films would not coincide.
To truly enjoy what the film has to offer, one must throw out any judgments that might be present, given the possible misconception that this film might essentially have nothing new to offer someone who has seen “Capote.” Yes, both films have one central subject. Yes, they explore Capote’s vigilant work on “In Cold Blood,” and yes, there is no real distinction in the factual story.
But the difference does not lie in the story, it lies in the storytelling. Based on the book “Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career,” by George Plimpton, “Infamous” seamlessly weaves narrative storytelling with interviews from Capote’s closest friends including “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee, socialite Babe Paley, and boyfriend Jack Dunphy
Tobey Jones (“Finding Neverland,” “Harry Potter”) stars as Capote, a flamboyant yet celebrated author with an unforgettable high-pitched voice. We see Capote as he makes his way through New York’s high society, always surrounded by his “Swans,” who rely on him for gossip and ironically trust him. One night he comes upon a story in the New York Times that changes his live forever. “Wealthy Farmer, 3 of Family Slain,” the headline reads. And so, Capote, profoundly interested on how a gruesome murder has rattled a small town, embarks on a journey to Kansas with Lee, his Pulitzer Prize-winning childhood friend (played by Sandra Bullock) in tow to investigate the murders for a feature piece he is writing for The New Yorker.
After months spent trying to gather information and butting heads with Alvin Dewey, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations agent who led the investigation of the Clutter murders. The small town community opens up to Capote, overcoming his eccentric manner and his voice, which Gore Vidal described as “what a Brussels sprout would sound like if a Brussels sprout could talk.” Entranced with his amazing stories of the debutantes and befriended celebrities in New York’s high society circles, they slowly reveal what they knew of the Clutters before they were found killed by gunshot wounds in their house.
After the killers are caught, Capote begins conducting interviews with them and soon develops an intense emotional and physical relationship with Perry Smith (Daniel Craig), the sensitive one of the two.
The story then follows Capote during the next five years as his relationship with Perry deepens. Capote, is now stuck in a strange twist of fate. Despite the fact that he can’t finish the book until they are killed, Capote yearns for Perry’s life to be spared, fearing that he will lose the closest thing he has known to love.
Through the film, the interviews with the people who knew him and the chilling narrative humanize Capote. The film not only presents him as a writer on a risky and dangerous quest for the ultimate story, but as a confidant of New York’s finest ladies, a witty and bold figure, and a child within a man still dealing with problems of the past.
There are times when you laugh or become lost in deep thought as Smith tells Capote his perils, disturbed and perhaps traumatized by the grizzly murder of four innocent people.
The art direction comes across loud and clear through scenes in New York where Capote is with his inner circle. The locations are bursting with color and are ornately detailed, from the clubs he visits to the homes of his “Swans.”
The audience will definitely be treated to a surprise with a cameo from Gwyneth Paltrow as singer Kitty Dean in the opening scene. Paltrow sings a sultry version of Cole Porter’s “What is This Thing Called Love,” and falters once, getting emotionally involved in the song, which causes the whole room to grow silent. She recovers graciously and continues the song, while a full audience sympathetically claps for her performance. This instance, one can say, encapsulates everything “Infamous” tries to portray about Capote’s life and the way he becomes deeply involved with a cold-blooded killer, faltering from his path as a writer and coming out as a human being in love.