Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Film Review: Capote

Had a bit of spare annual leave which I had to take last week, so I used a half-day and while I had some rare peace and quiet at home I took the chance to see the film Capote.

This was a film I'd been meaning to see for a while. I read (and loved) In Cold Blood for my A levels, and given that the film looks at that book from a different perspective I was interested to see it.

Things I liked:
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote. Masterful.
  • The ways Capote was shown as manipulative and conniving to get his story. If the whole story took place forty years later you suspect it couldn't happen, no writer would get that kind of access to a major investigation.
  • The hint of Capote's slide into alcoholism. If you haven't watched it but plan to keep an eye on how often Capote has a drink in his hand while doing something.
  • The 1950s/60s settings. They appear to have worked really hard on this. It looks pretty authentic (not that I'm an expert on these things, but I was impressed).
  • Catherine Keener as Harper Lee. Understated, but excellent.
  • Chris Cooper as Alvin Dewey. Smart, yet compassionate but also capable of anger when he thinks the conflicted Capote might somehow get Hickock and Smith free.
  • Mark Pellegrino as Dick Hickock. I've seen three different actors play Hickock now. Scott Wilson in the original 1960s film struck me as not menacing enough. Anthony Edwards in the 1990s mini-series kept me think of Goose from Top Gun (sorry, can't help it). It's a pity there isn't more of Pellegrino in this film, as for some reason he comes over as the Hickock I'd read in the book.
  • Perry Smith watching the warehouse while Lowell Lee Andrews is being executed. I liked the way they left this to the imagination, and the thought of what was facing Smith himself.

Things I didn't like:
  • The scene where Capote brings in a photographer from New York to get photos of Hickock and Smith. What?! Would the KBI really approve of that? I've always looked out for information on the web to do with In Cold Blood and have never seen these pictures. I can't believe they exist and can't understand why if this didn't happen the scene is included in the film.
  • The closure of the Smith peeking through his cell during Andrews' execution. Andrews' body leaves the warehouse uncerimonisouly on some kind of farm equipment. It just doesn't fit. Also the book well documents that it was raining heavily when Andrews was executed, yet there's not a drop of rain in any of those shots.
  • The changing of some names. I know there's probably all sorts of legalities that go with filming a true story, but it annoys me when names get changed and you have to think "Oh, that's actually such and such". There aren't many instances of this, but there are enough to bother you.

As always you wonder exactly what Hollywood has done to the story, what is true and what isn't. For the most part though it's pretty good. I don't think I'd buy it as a DVD though, it's not really light and easy viewing.

For anyone else who is an In Cold Blood fan there's a great feature here at

Odd footnote: I love the Southern US and love In Cold Blood, yet I've never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I think I need to fix that at some point in the near future.