By Tim Barlow
Admittedly choosing Capote was a risk. I first saw it probably six years ago, and I remembered it as having a thought provoking script, being beautifully shot and fantastically acted, but I still only saw it the one time. Emotionally heavy and stark movies that feel perpetually set in winter aren’t my choice for a lazy Saturday afternoon in the chill zone (Yes, I just renamed my family room, the chill zone. Don’t care) And ranking a movie in my Top 30 of all time after one viewing and with zero attempts at re-watching in the past six years, is either a risk or a blatant self deception.
I’ve also never read In Cold Blood, the Truman Capote novel which serves as the plot device for Capote. I have it, and have had it for a long time, but I’ve never even come close to picking it up whenever the time comes to choose a new book. Home invasions, family murders, no thanks. I’ve also never read Breakfast at Tiffany’s or any other Truman Capote effort. So, the only connection I have to this movie is the movie. Again, especially given some of the motivation behind other choices on my list, it’s a, well you get the idea.
But after re-watching Capote for this project, I feel totally validated; so long insecurity, you’ve been a bad friend.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman is amazing, and the supporting cast of Catherine Keener as Harper Lee, Chris Cooper as the town sheriff and Clifton Collins as one of the killers, are all wonderful as well.
The cinematography, specifically the stark color palette that lingers through most of the movie provides the perfect bleak backdrop…
And the script, though it at times comes dangerously close to beating us over the head with the fact that there is an interconnectedness between Truman and one of the killers, it doesn’t egregiously cross that line. Instead the dialogue and plot push on patiently, primarily displaying that deeper connection through Truman and his interactions.
One of the most interesting directions the script takes is the way it portrays Perry and Truman on inverted paths of righteousness. While Perry murdered people in cold blood, the grusome act (though initially unseen by the viewer) which starts the movie, he gradually presents a kinder, gentler and more thoughtful demeanor as the movie moves along. Truman, on the other hand, starts out as gentle and kind, soft spoken and cautious, feeling out his unfamiliar surroundings. But over time, his charm takes over, melting icy interactions, and breaking down barriers, and once those barriers are out of the way, he shows no hesitancy with using any of the other characters to get what he wants, despite warnings and attempted interventions from friends e.g., “Be careful what you do (Truman) to get what you want” and “In Cold Blood, and that refers to the crime or the fact that you’re still talking to the defendants?” Truman bares his true nature more and more often, eventually lying even to himself as he desperately tries to scrape together some semblance of peace.
In the end, my lasting impression of Capote is one of monsters. The kind that spontaneously murder whole families behind closed doors, out in the middle of nowhere, and the kind that deceive, manipulate and coerce in the city. For one it ends in execution, for the other, fame, but really they’re both dead. So be careful what you do, Tim, to get what you want.