CAPOTE (Bennett Miller). 110 minutes. Opens Friday (October 28). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN
Bennett Miller's much-lauded film about the legendary writer and wit Truman Capote is less a biopic than a subtle, merciless look at what it takes to make a work of art. It follows Capote ( Philip Seymour Hoffman ) during the four years he spent researching his non-fiction classic In Cold Blood, which details the lives of two drifters who in 1959 slaughtered an upstanding Kansas family.
Capote finds a kindred outcast spirit in killer Perry Smith ( Clifton Collins Jr. ), and has to question, helped by his love of the bottle and his friend Harper Lee ( Catherine Keener ), his personal and professional motives for helping the man. Is he in love with him? Or is he using him for his own selfish means? Or is it a little of both?
Miller doesn't rub our noses in period details, and keeps appearances by Capote's impressive circle of famous friends to a minimum. Hoffman, in virtually every scene, is astonishing; you can't take your eyes - or ears - off him.
There's a weird lack of information about Capote's sex life. He's in a long-term relationship with writer Jack Dunphy ( Bruce Greenwood ), but the two are so chaste they might as well be roommates. Is this a case of a writer and director censoring their subject?
Hoffman nails the writer's babyish voice and fey mannerisms, although even the most carefully tailored coat can't disguise the fact that he's too tall to play the diminutive scribe.