2005 Running time: 118 Certificate: 15 Rating: 4

Synopsis

While researching his "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood in 1959, attention-seeking intellectual Truman Capote (Toby Jones) nurtures a relationship with enigmatic murderer-of-four Perry Smith (Daniel Craig). In this glossier and more accessible version of the events covered by Capote, diminutive Englishman Jones steps out of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning shadow with a career-defining performance. Craig bristles nicely, but it's Sandra Bullock who stands out of the stellar supporting cast as Capote's best friend, author Harper Lee.

Director

  • Douglas McGrath

Cast

  • Peter Bogdanovich

  • Daniel Craig

  • Toby Jones

  • Jeff Daniels

  • Sandra Bullock

Review

While commercial forces may warrant rival movies about meteors (Armageddon and Deep Impact) or volcanoes (Dante's Peak and Volcano), the arrival of twin projects concerning a self-serving, helium-voiced writer can only be coincidence.

British writer-director-actor Douglas McGrath acknowledges the fact. But though comparisons are inevitable, Infamous is a quality production which deserves to be judged on its own merits. This is not simply Capote version 2.0.

The stories, however, are identical.

Like a prize pug put before the most hard-to-please judges, flamboyant writer Truman Capote (Jones) revels in entertaining 1950s New York society with an inexhaustible supply of outrageous anecdotes and devastating wit.

In a rare quiet moment, the effete pipsqueak's literary juices are set flowing by a newspaper item detailing the gruesome murders of a Kansas farmer and his family.

Accompanied by his closest confidante, To Kill A Mockingbird author Nelle Harper Lee (Bullock - terrific), Capote flounces into the Midwest to give his insight to police chief Dewey (Daniels), secure an audience with the captured killers and nail his story.

To that end, he soon has the townsfolk lapping up his Hollywood gossip. (Bullock's calming presence aside, this entire chapter plays like an extended sketch from Little Britain's "only gay in the village".)

Dewey finally grants visiting time with the murderers: unrepentant loudmouth Dick Hickock (Lee Pace) and the pent-up ball of intrigue that is Perry Smith (a bristling Craig).

Capote gradually manages to gain Smith's trust with a combination of sympathy and manipulation; a skilled trainer taming a wild stallion. But as the book takes shape, the author is unable to maintain his distance from his doomed subject.

Where Capote was a pared-down exercise in subtlety, this is an unashamedly theatrical affair.

Everyone gets something to chew on, from Jones' drama queen and Craig's caged animal to the Manhattan jet set of Sigourney Weaver, Isabella Rossellini, Peter Bogdanovich, Juliet Stevenson and Hope Davis. Even Gwyneth Paltrow makes the most of a gratuitous and totally redundant role as a torch singer.

Less convincing yet more entertaining than its predecessor, Infamous proves that in a world of sequels and remakes, there is more than enough room for two Truman shows.

Elliott Noble