Infamous is a thoughtful, emotional and oftentimes hysterical re-telling of Truman Capote's life-altering experience in Kansas. It might actually be better than that other Capote movie.
Yes, it's true. Although it reaped deserved accolades and an Oscar win for its star, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote keeps you somewhat at arm's length, as you watch Truman Capote go through his agonizing journey to writing his one and only masterpiece, In Cold Blood. Infamous, however, wears its heart on its sleeve, drawing you in immediately. When we first meet Capote (Toby Jones), it's in New York. As the toast of the town and confidante to some of Manhattan's elite grand dames, including Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver) and Slim Keith (Hope Davis), Capote's mood is light and airy, his antics hilarious. Then, once Capote travels to Kansas to cover the grisly Cutter murders with his dear friend Nell Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock), the frivolity is peeled away layer by layer. When he finally becomes so tortuouslyand yes, even romantically (it goes there)entangled with killer Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) and the writing of his book hits its crescendo, Capote emerges as a beaten-down and bitter man, who ultimately can't even be lifted by his high society friends. Infamous is infinitely more heartbreaking.
It's really hard to top Hoffman's Oscar-winning performance as Truman Capote. He embodies the character with such exquisite and subtle suffering you don't mind the fact he doesn't look anything like the diminutive author. Toby Jones (Finding Neverland), however, does look like Capote. A LOT like him and is just as capable at wringing out all of Capote's brilliance and faults. But rather than dominate, Jones' eerie look-a-like characterization blends in more with Infamous' scenery, allowing some of the other colorful characters to step up to the plate. Weaver and Davis are effusive and catty as Capote's Manhattan buddies, who give hints on what's to become of Capote later in his life, when he finally goes too far and crosses these fine society ladies. Craig is also particularly effecting as Smith, full of pathos and rage. But the real stand out is Bullock as Harper Lee. Her unassuming but quietly fierce take on the To Kill a Mockingbird author far outshines Catherine Keener's Oscar-nominated performance in Capote. Bullock brings such an essence to the role that when watching Lee tell stories of when she and Truman were children, you see the little girl, Scout, from Mockingbird so very clearly. Kudos all around.
Director/writer Douglas McGrath has to got to be kicking himself. Seriously. Of course he's going to say, "Given the riveting contradictions in Capote's character, the rich range of people who made up his circle, and the comic and dramatic turns that marked the period, the real wonder is that there were only two scripts." But the fact of the matter is Capote came first and furious, getting all kinds of good strokes. Releasing another movie about the very same subject on its heels...well, that movie is going to have a harder time. Period. And that's a real shame. McGrath does some truly marvelous things with Infamous. He shows how a flamboyant gay writer, spoiled, chic, who plays court jester to the very cream of New York society, is set down in the wastelands of Kansas to write about a horrible crime. Capote's antics, at first, are hilarious, such as trying to wear cowboy boots and a cowboy hat just to fit in. But then the shift into the dark side, as Capote delves deeper and deeper into the psyche of the killers, keeps you riveted. It might be the same but Infamous is just as worthy.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.