In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.

I must confess at the start of this review that I went into this viewing expecting the best. I think that Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the best actors working right now, and find his performances enjoyable even in less than stellar movies. I also, generally, enjoy Catherine Keener, and I had heard that this movie was a knockout.

I was not misled, the movie is astounding – mostly due to Hoffman’s dead-on portrayal of the over-the-top Capote and his ability to still give a nuanced presentation of the author’s struggles. You see the havoc that is being wrought on Capote’s soul, even as he presses forward to his greatest triumph. He is tormented and elated, prideful and wallowing in self-disgust – all in the facial expressions of the actor. Truly award winning.

The story itself is, if not mesmerizing, certainly intriguing. I found myself once again curious about the source material, looking to read In Cold Blood again, trying to find it in the video stores (Blockbuster doesn’t carry it, Hollywood video does, but I haven’t found it in stock yet).

The actors portraying the killers and the cops are tragic and heroic, respectively. The Literati are sparkling and self-important, none as much as Capote, who disses his best friend as she celebrates the movie release of To Kill A Mockingbird.

I was a bit disappointed in Keener’s performance, which seemed a bit flat. I didn’t feel that she illuminated Harper Lee for me, and was hoping to feel more of her connection to Capote – or at least more of her longing for one. Her character seemed almost unnecesarry in most of the scenes, and I think if she had put more ‘character’ into the character, she would have seemed more ‘in place’. Of course, Harper Lee is notoriously reclusive, leaving Keener with little to work with.

You may want to watch this one, then lighten up the mood a bit by watching one of Capote’s earlier films, like Breakfast at Tiffany’s – just pay no attention to the subtext behind the curtain….

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 90%; Audience 81%