Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Infamous - A Different Capote

A lot has been written in movie review land about the new Infamous, released more than a year after Capote. It's rather amazing that the new film uses exactly the same slice of Capote's life to tell. And what's even more interesting is that it's a different film entirely.

Comparisons with the other film are inevitable, if only because Capote was a stellar achievement in screenplay as well as acting. If Capote is the intellectual, subtle approach, then one could only describe Infamous as the gutsy, more physical approach. The latter film took chances by spelling out what the screenplay writer and director Douglas McGrath imagined what happened, particularly behind prison walls in the scenes between Truman and Perry. In Capote we wonder about his attraction to Perry, but in Infamous, we don't wonder; it's there, and definitely a physical relationship. It's a different film, certainly, one that goes for the gut.

And that works, perhaps not for the historians among us but for those of us who wonder how Truman Capote wasted his talent after In Cold Blood. Infamous attempts to explain that lapse in terms we understand.

Toby Jones inhabits the role easily and is certainly a more dimunitive character than Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning portrayal. The voice is at once hilarious, almost a parody of itself, and is the point of humor early on in the film. In fact, sometimes Jones' characterization is more parody than substance, but the actor rises above such nonsense during the dramatic scenes later on in the film.

The relationship between Capote and Nelle Harper Lee seemed very real in Infamous, a feat ascribed to Sandra Bullock's acting, clearly one of the best dramatic roles she's ever attempted, and a screenplay that shows a real relationship where two friends can squabble and yet come back together, knowing old friendships never die. Nelle is the grounding point for Truman's wild ventures, and, as in the other film, helps midwesterners adapt to this wild, alien creature.

Infamous, I must admit, is easier to watch than Capote, mostly because the humor in Truman Capote's circumstances is never far away. And if you like to star watch, you'll have a ball here. The first scene lights on Gwynyth Paltrow as a singer -- who disappears and never returns -- and we're treated to fine scenes with Sigourney Weaver and Isabella Rossellini as part of Truman's band of fans, there always because he elevates gossip to an art form. And Daniel Craig (the new James Bond) as Perry Smith is far more dangerous than any such apparition in that other film.

If you're not sick of the Truman Capote story, and want a look at a carefully crafted and fascinating tale, take a look at Infamous for another take on what actually happened. Thumb's up.


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