Warner Independent Pictures
Review by: Larry Thomas
For good or bad, Hollywood seems to have a knack of turning out two films on the
same subject within a short period of time: Deep Impact and Armageddon;
Dante's Peak and Valcano; Tombstone and Wyatt Earp,
some released within six months of each other. Next week comes The Prestige,
no more than three months after that other turn-of-the-century magician film,
The Illusionist. One of the films usually turns out to be good, the other
not so hot. Is this the result of an excess of creativity, or just a muscle-flexing
exercise in egotistical hubris?
This week's journey into cinematic déjà vu is the release
of Infamous, the other film that centers around author Truman Capote and the
personal and professional hell he suffered in the course of writing his masterpiece
In Cold Blood. The first film, Capote, garnered five Oscar
nominations, and won a Best Actor statue for Philip Seymour Hoffman. That's
a tough act to follow.
Adapted from the book by George Plimpton by actor-writer-director Doug McGrath,
Infamous covers much of the same territory as Capote. And despite the
obvious comparisons, there's much to appreciate here.
McGrath, who has toiled in show biz as both a writer for Saturday Night Live,
and an actor on occasion in Woody Allen films, wrote and directed his first
film ten years ago. His adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma starring
Gwyneth Paltrow was a charmer, and won over audiences everywhere.
The cast of Infamous is full of interesting performers who bring much skill
to their roles. British actor Toby Jones is fine as Truman Capote. With a character
as flamboyant as Capote, it sometimes comes down to a matter of impersonation,
and he seems to have that under control. Not so much the appearance as the mannerisms
and voice. In any other year, he would be a shoo-in for an Oscar nod.
Lawman Alvin Dewey is played by the ever dependable, and generally underappreciated
Jeff Daniels. His Dewey is a bit different from Chris Cooper's in Capote
in that he seems to have more of an "aw, shucks" personae.
Sandra Bullock is Harper Lee, Capote's friend and confidante. Prior to
the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, her biggest claim to fame
was working on In Cold Blood. And, like her friend, she never published
Capote's close circle of New York socialites are the most interesting
characters, and naturally have the best lines: Sigourney Weaver, Isabella Rossellini,
Hope Davis, and Juliet Stevenson are funny and catty.
Probably the most startling revelation is Daniel Craig as killer Perry Smith,
who not only co-perpetrated a heinous massacre, but managed to steal Capote's
affections in the bargain. Craig, soon to be seen as the new James Bond, looks
nothing like the real Smith, but offers up a performance that is complex and
riveting. His Smith is brutish, intelligent, clever, and yet totally unpredictable.
Although Craig came to the role after both Mark Wahlberg and Mark Ruffalo dropped
out, it was cinematic serendipity, as he may well end up with an Oscar nomination
for his efforts.
But for you, the viewer, the bottom line is: how many times do you want to
relive the same story? The crime that sets these events in motion, Capote's
life in general, the writing of In Cold Blood, and the aftermath are
in many ways like watching a pile up on the interstate: gruesomely fascinating,
but maybe once is enough.