From the Video Shop: Infamous

Neil Turner


2006 - United States - 110 minutes

Writer and Director - Douglas McGrath from a book by George Plimpton

Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.2/10 - Link to IMDb

My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars


I really liked Capote (Link to IMDb) - especially the performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman, but I must say I was far more impressed by this version of the same story - the period of time in which Truman Capote researched and wrote In Cold Blood.

Capote is an excellent film and presents a wonderful dark, moody picture of the circumstances of the time, but Infamous is able to portray that dark mood as well as shed more light upon the contradictory nature of Capote. From all that I can gather, he was certainly a charming and interesting character but probably not a very nice man. That part of him is very well illustrated in this film.

One critic I read stated that this film is inferior to Capote because the scenes showing Capote with his circle of socialite friends in New York were overdone to the extent of being almost cartoonish. In creating these scenes with over-the-top colors, costumes, and mannerisms, the director gives us an enhanced look at that somewhat supercilious social scene of the New York intelligentsia of which Capote was the darling. I found these scenes to be especially effective.

Another criticism of the film is the semi-documentary technique in which major characters speak directly to the camera about events. In my viewpoint, these scenes add to the film - especially those viewers who are not fully aware of all of these events that took place some forty years ago.

Capote is played by British actor, Toby Jones to absolute perfection. I remember watching Truman Capote when he appeared on television talk shows and have to tell you that Jones has Capote's voice and mannerisms expertly captured. I remember that Capote had a way of squirming in his seat while being interviewed that I didn't notice in Jones's performance, but this may have been a Capote affectation only for the small screen.

Sandra Bullock plays Capote's lifelong friend, Nelle Harper Lee, and in her performance shows what a special actor she is, and so often overlooked.

Other than Jones, the not to be forgotten performance of the film comes from Daniel Craig as murderer, Perry Smith. Craig, who is basically viewed as an action hero, gives a heart wrenching look at a man shattered by life who, in a moment of passion, becomes an unspeakable beast. There was clearly a deep emotional relationship between Capote and Smith, and this version of the story ventures beyond that to the physical. The scenes involving the writer and the beast are the high points of the film.

The film is also sprinkled with delightful performances of other major actors such as Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, Peter Bogdanovich, and Jeff Daniels.

In culling a brilliant performance by Toby Jones as well as providing enlightening out-of-character performances from Sandra Bullock and Daniel Craig, director, Douglas McGrath has given us a film worth watching more than once. Add sharp writing and beautiful authentic art direction, and you have a film well worth five stars.



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Harvard Square Commentary, February 19, 2007