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WGUC Reviews

Infamous

Infamous
Warner Independent Pictures
Rated R
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 another novel.

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.


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