- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2005 1 Jan
Bennett Miller's film
At first glance, the story of an artist with compassion for prisoners would seem like a story of Christian virtue. And Capote, as played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, certainly demonstrates compassion for Perry Smith, the killer he befriends during his visits while researching a story for his next book.
But Miller's film is not a tale of virtue. As Capote interviews Smith (Clifton Collins, Jr.), cozying up to him in his death-row cell, he loses his way. With the support of The New Yorker, which serialized his story, Capote gains Smith's confidence through lies, even as his affection for the man complicates his feelings and his work. And ultimately, he exploits him, driven by an ego swollen with the praise for his previous work. Haunted by the nightmares of his childhood, Capote was a man who kept his troubled heart concealed. His mind was an enigma, but his talent was undeniable. Viewers will respond with conflicting feelings about the man as they watch his fascinating fluctuations between pity and pride, sympathy and selfishness.
Hoffman, who has earned critics' praise for performances in films such as
It's already being praised by mainstream critics as one of 2005's best films, and Hoffman deserves the Academy Award nomination he's likely to earn—he may even win. But screenwriter Dan Futterman should also receive recognition for penning a rare and provocative work that asks us to consider the ethical challenges that many artists and journalists face.
My full review is at Looking Closer.
Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) says, "Miller's sobering film masterfully recreates the early 1960s … Hoffman does a spot-on impersonation of Capote, and paints a picture of a man whose vanity and frivolousness often get the upper hand. It's far from an approving portrait … For a while it seems the film might be painting too sympathetic a picture of the culprits, especially Smith. But even as Capote warms, or seems to warm to him, we're given enough of a balanced picture so that we can plainly see Smith is far from a wounded puppy.
J. Robert Parks (Phantom Tollbooth) offers a different take: "I like