November 25, 2006

MOVIES: Infamous (Douglas McGrath, 2006)

Fair or not, it's impossible to avoid comparisons to last year's Capote, since both movies cover exactly the same small slice of Truman Capote's life -- the writing of In Cold Blood.

As Capote, Toby Jones starts off with some advantages over Philip Seymour Hoffman; Jones is a smaller man, closer to Capote's size, and he comes even closer to Capote's distinctive voice than Hoffman did. But I think Jones coasts on the vocal mimicry more than Hoffman did, and especially in the first half of the movie, he's content (as is director McGrath) to get the easy laughs that come from playing Capote's flamboyance against the more reticent Kansas people he's interviewing.

Once the killers, Dick Hickok and Perry Smith (Lee Pace and Daniel Craig), enter the scene, the movie takes a sharp turn away from the breezy humor that dominated the first half; we're now focused on the relationship between Capote and Smith. Infamous presents that relationship as more explicitly sexual than Capote did, even giving us a kiss between the two. But Jones' performance never reaches as deep as Hoffman's did, and he never convinced me of Capote's pain and conflict about that relationship.

Infamous isn't a bad movie, and had it not been preceded by Capote, I'd probably feel much more kindly towards it. But in the wake of a better movie, and a vastly better lead performance, Infamous is superfluous.

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