Philip Seymour Hoffman has always stood out in the films he's been in, no matter how small the role. He chooses his projects carefully - he doesn't have a bad movie on his resume since 1998's "Patch Adams," although "Along Came Polly" was nothing to scream about - and has slowly developed a name for himself in the same way that William H. Macy has, as one of the best supporting actors in the game. But Hoffman has broken through in a large way with "Capote."
A captivating little film about a few years in the life of journalist/novelist Truman Capote, "Capote" starts off with the brutal murder of four people in a small town. Capote, looking for his next great story, heads to the town to write a piece on how the murders affected the town's citizens, and soon realizes that the story goes beyond a mere article but in fact should be his next great American classic. Once the murderers are captured and convicted, however, things only get more complicated as Capote creates a strong bond with one of the killers (Clifton Collins Jr.) - but is the bond a true friendship or merely a one-sided business relationship to extract the necessary details to put in a book?
Hoffman, who has transformed himself in the past, pushes his abilities to new levels with Capote. Adopting a very unique and odd voice, quirky mannerisms and other flamboyant things the true Capote was apparently known for, Hoffman is hardly recognizable as the actor and is instead fully immersed in the character he is playing. While the film has not garnered much attention, his performance is undeniably one of the year's best.
Hoffman is also supported by a great cast that includes Catherine Keener, Bruce Greenwood and Chris Cooper. Cooper, while always good, gets a pretty standard role, while the lesser known Collins Jr. steals the show with a powerful and heartfelt performance as one of the film's killers. The movie paints a very solid yet gray picture of a man who has done unspeakable things, but who at the same time is a human being and not the monster everyone assumes him to be.
The movie itself is also quite good and at times spellbinding, though the third act drags things on a bit. A few pacing issues hinder the story at times, but for the most part "Capote" is engaging, intriguing and ultimately entertaining. Hoffman alone is worth it to see on screen, but the story that is told here is a mesmerizing and complicated one.
"Capote" is one of the smartest films of the year, and also boasts one of the best leading performances of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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