Different side of the coin

It’s hard not to compare “Infamous” with Capote. Both films cover roughly the same time period and the same series of events. Both films were released within a year or so of each other. I’m not sure what happened with that, but it’s unfortunate because I suspect most people ended up seeing “Capote” (released first) and passed Infamous by. That said, I’m going to bow to pressure and compare them.

I’m not sure one is superior to the other. I liked both for different reasons. Sandra Bullock did a surprisingly good job as Harper Lee–not Bullock’s biggest fan–but she brought a haunted quality to the part that I liked a lot. Director and screenwriter, Douglas McGrath uses “testimonials,” to punctuate the plot. Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Diana Vreeland, even Gore Vidal periodically share their thoughts on Capote. It’s artificial, but it does work. Given that New York and the society in which Capote traveled are so prominent in “Infamous,” perhaps it’s even a shrewd move.

Where I think the movie falls apart for me is in the portrayal of Perry Smith, one of the two murderers. In “Capote,” Clifton Collins, Jr. plays Smith as part naive and part psychopath. Daniel Craig of James Bond fame is mercurial, violent, and charming, but … it didn’t work for me. Nor did the film’s premise.

Truman Capote was never the same after completing “In Cold Blood. ” The fundamental question that both of these films poses and answers is why. What about this period in Capote’s life changed him so? What broke him? Because I’m not a Truman Capote scholar, I don’t really know.

“Capote” suggests that it was the author’s betrayal and manipulation of his subjects. Infamous suggests it was the emotional relationship between the author and his subject itself. As convincingly as Toby Jones and Daniel Craig play it, McGrath’s solution seems too pat, too Hollywood for me. There’s an elegance in “Capote” that “Infamous” lacks.

I do agree with the New Yorker review. You “should not not see it.” Well worth your time and the rental fee.

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