Truman Capote is best known for writing In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and this film deals with the six year it took him to write the true crime novel based on the murder of an entire family in rural Kansas. The film concentrates on Capote, the murders are only important because they are what motivates Truman. The trial, the murderers, etc, all of these play second fiddle to the man himself.
As such, Hoffman is on screen for almost every minute of this film. And not only does he have to portray a real person, he also has to mimic Capote’s high, lisping voice. Not an easy job, but Hoffman pulls it off with seeming ease. As was recognised by his Oscar for this role.
However, this isn’t a very enjoyable film. Capote himself comes across as a very unlikeable character. He is a selfish, manipulative character, whose only desire seems to be finishing his book. We get flashes of Capote in “society”, entertaining other party-goers with his stories and humour. But there is always the sense that he entertains because he craves the attention. He needs to be surrounded by adoring fans. (If I was to get all psychological I would suggest that this is due to his childhood of neglect.)
We also get hints at the Truman behind the entertainer. But really, he isn’t much better. More honest perhaps, but being brutally honest isn’t enough when you are self-obsessed as Capote in this film.
As a result, I didn’t enjoy this film. Truman annoyed me.
At the same time however, I was intrigued by it. By how others related to him. Harper Lee, his friend since childhood, comments at once stage that he is no longer funny. A statement about his attitude to the Clutter murderers, and about other people in general. Perry, one of the murderers, is convinced that Truman is his friend, when all along Truman merely wants to write his book. And he needs Perry and Richard’s appeals to fail, so that they will be executed and he will get his ending. Yet on another level he does care for Perry. He is fascinated with him, and shares many childhood experiences with him. It would be astonishing if he didn’t have some feeling for Perry, he got to know him over the course of six years.
In the end I’m glad I saw this film. Interesting and entertaining, a fantastic portrayal of a complicated, talented man, it is a very good film. But one I won’t be rewatching.