Plot: What’s it about?
“Capote”, from the looks of it, would seem to be a rather boring movie if not for the casting. And for those who thought that actors don’t make a movie, “Capote” is a perfect example. As of this writing, Phillip Seymour Hoffman just nabbed his first Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote and did he ever deserve it. I’m from Kansas, went to college there and know that it’s – well – a somewhat lackluster state (physically). About the only thing people associate with the state is “The Wizard of Oz” and that’s not saying much. However Hollywood saw an opportunity (much like Truman Capote did) and made the movie and one of the most delightful things to witness is Hoffman’s performance. He’s got the mannerisms down, the high-pitched nasal voice and just about everything else that embodied the reclusive writer. Add to that Catherine Keener’s Harper Lee and “Capote” is as entertaining as most films out there.
For those that aren’t familiar with the storyline of “Capote”, it’s fairly simple. In Holton, Kansas a family of four were shot and killed. Truman Capote (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a writer for The New Yorker, saw an opportunity to write about the killing and turn it into a book. As time told, he did and his book, “In Cold Blood” turned out to be the jewel in his crown. Capote brings with him his friend and fellow author, Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) who herself would find fame with her award-winning “To Kill a Mockingbird”. As he starts to dig deeper and find the facts, he develops a close relationship with Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.), who was one of the killers. The film isn’t so much a history lesson as it shows different people from different walks of life. Capote and Lee are New Yorkers thrust into the vast wheat fields that is Kansas and it’s a great character study to boot.
“Capote” is brought to the screen by Bennett Miller, who’s done a great job with the screenplay and the cast in general. A problem with some movies is that the individual performances sometimes outshine the movie itself and I’m happy to say that it’s not the case here. Yes, Phillip Seymour Hoffman is something to behold, especially when you consider some of his other work (personally I always associate him with “Scent of a Woman”), but like many great actors – when you have a great part it’s like a work of art. While “Capote” might not appeal to the masses, there are those who will love and it and some who will shrug their shoulders. Personally, I was enthralled and actually learned a few things about Capote and Lee. Keener was also nominated for an Oscar, but lost out to Rachel Weitz for “The Constant Gardner”. “Capote” is a great movie filled with enigmatic performances and a triumph for all involved. Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Look up “bleak” in the dictionary and there should be at least one sentence that has a parallel to Kansas in it. And if not, there should be. “Capote” is shown in a very good-looking 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that leaves very little to be desired. The open shots of the farm and the vast landscape of the Kansas countryside look great in this transfer. Flesh tones are a bit blown out (much like the cover), but for the most part everything looks good. I noticed a few blips here and there, but Sony’s done a good job with the transfer here – as they usually do.
Audio: How does it sound?
While a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does exist, it’s certainly not the strongest one out there. As we might expect, “Capote” isn’t a movie that you’ll use to demo your home theater, then again it’s not supposed to be. This dialogue-driven movie does utilize all 5.1 channels, but the majority of the action is relegated to the front stage. I noticed the surrounds a few times, but the center channel bears most of the burden here. It’s a good mix, but nothing to remember – for sure.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Sony is in the habit of re-issuing movies as “Special Editions” when they don’t need to be and while I’m sure we’ll see another incarnation of “Capote” in the future, there isn’t too much of a need right now. There are a pair of audio commentaries with Director Bennett Miller. On the first he pairs with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and the two are quite talkative, which makes for an interesting track. The second is Miller with his cinematographer Adam Kimmel for a more technical-oriented track. Both tracks are quite good, but I found the one with Hoffman a bit more engaging. A great documentary “Unanswered Prayers” takes a look at the real Truman Capote and a pair of featurettes round out the supplements. As I mentioned above, I’m sure we’ll see a “2 Disc Special Edition” in the future, but for the time being this disc has more than the lion’s share when it comes to supplements; it should suffice nicely.