Infamous

| October 19, 2006

Here’s the film that everyone has been calling “the other Truman Capote movie.” Fair enough. It’s true. Infamous is eerily similar to Capote in both structure and tone. The film begins as a light, charming look at this caricature of a man, a figure that possessed enough charisma and talent to propel him through the elite social circles of New York and the bestsellers’ list at the same time. From there, however, it takes a darker turn as Capote investigates the brutal Clutter murders that took place in the rural cornfields of Kansas.
I’ll admit, having seen both films, it’s extremely difficult to not compare them. That said, Infamous, while entertaining, doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. For one, it relies far too heavily on these pseudo-interviews with about a half-dozen people from Capote’s life, where they tell little anecdotes about their friend and confidante. Completely unnecessary and disruptive to the narrative. Toby Jones does a remarkable job of portraying this celebrity writer, and to use these interviews as a simple way to explain a very complex man is a disservice to both the actor and the audience. Apparently, director Douglas McGrath didn’t trust his lead enough, or he didn’t think his viewers were smart enough. He’s wrong on both counts.
More importantly, though, the film is spread too thin between too many plotlines. There’s Capote’s relationship with his lover, Jack. His relationships with his many society lady friends. His relationship with Harper Lee. His relationship with Perry Smith. The murder trial itself. The book that would come of it. We get little tidbits about Capote’s life, loves and career without ever really knowing anything significant regarding any of them. Perhaps that was the point. Perhaps McGrath was implying that that’s exactly who Capote was–a man who would forever be a mystery to himself and others. A man who didn’t know how to really be himself for fear that he would be rejected. Who knows? In terms of the film, however, it left me more frustrated than enlightened about this enigmatic character.
Although I wouldn’t say that Infamous was disappointing, it didn’t quite grab me the way Capote did. I’m sorry. It’s impossible not to compare. Definitely worth a trip to the theatre if, like me, you find it fascinating when two different movies try to tell the same story and compare the way each tries to tell it. Otherwise, if you’ve already seen Capote and have neither the time nor the patience to sit through yet again another Truman Capote tale, you won’t miss much.

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