Picks and Pans Review: Capote

updated 10/10/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/10/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr.

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By shrewdly focusing on a few crucial years in the life of writer Truman Capote (1924-84), this mesmerizing movie manages to give a complete, multidimensional portrait of the author while avoiding the pit-falls of overblown cradle-to-grave biopics. And it's blessed by a masterful performance from Hoffman, who not only captures perfectly the way the diminutive writer—dubbed the Tiny Terror—looked and squeaked, but also nails Capote's contradictory mix of charm, cunning, selfishness, ambition and self destructiveness.

Capote, sensitively directed by Bennett Miller (The Cruise), concentrates on the period between 1959, when Capote first traveled to Kansas to report on the bloody murder of a family of four at a farmhouse, and 1966, when In Cold Blood, his true-crime account of the case, was published to critical acclaim and huge commercial success. The cost was steep. Capote is about how a writer, single-mindedly pursuing his literary goal, betrays and manipulates friends, lovers, sources and even himself. It's telling that after Blood, Capote turned increasingly to pills, alcohol and propping up his celebrity on the chat-show circuit. He never completed another full-length work. (R)


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