The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Capote

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

Rated R

Writers pushed outside of their comfort zones can deliver great journalism. As “Capote” told it, Truman Capote’s experience reporting “In Cold Blood” — about the Clutter murders in Kansas and their perpetrators — knocked him to the floor senseless. But you wouldn’t feel compelled to extend a hand to help him up.

A lot of biopics are described as warts-and-all. Here, the warts were the story’s life. As a title, “In Cold Blood” clearly referred as much to Capote’s chase of the story as it did to the manner in which Dick Hickock and Perry Smith murdered the Clutters.

There’s never any lightbulb moment to sway Capote back toward audience likeability, but such characterization isn’t really the forte of Philip Seymour Hoffman, in an Oscar-winning performance as the writer.

It remains Hoffman’s finest, bravest work — blending Capote’s flamboyant mannerisms and towering reputation with subtle menace and crumbling composure. His work also is physically acute to the point where you focus on mere eye movement to see him taking in information. Capote goes from casually comic raconteur to puppet master to, finally, the loser in a Faustian bargain.

Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman turned on its ear the journalistic notion of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable with a beautifully shot, paced and scripted 2005 film. Hell pulled at Capote from all sides here, and, against conventional biopic structure, won out. With no frills, “Capote” powerfully portrayed how steady moral decay corroded his powers of expression.

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8 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Capote”

  1. […] admired director Bennett Miller’s first two movies, “Capote” and “Moneyball,” but I feel “Foxcatcher” is one of the more overpraised films of 2014. […]

  2. […] is Miller’s third reminder of that striking notion. His first film, “Capote,” tells of a literary success spurred by murder; “Moneyball” follows a baseball coach who tried […]

  3. […] can be so dominant that the story can’t get any air. Think Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote” or Jamie Foxx in […]

  4. […] film around it tends to suffer. Like Jamie Foxx in “Ray” or Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote,” Streep’s gravitational pull is so powerful, story arcs and secondary characters tend to get […]

  5. […] was adeptly directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote”), who wisely concentrates his energy less on the action inside the baseball diamond than the grunt […]

  6. […] in 2005, beating out contenders like “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Munich,” “Capote” and the projected front-runner “Brokeback Mountain,” It also won Oscars for Best […]

  7. Nick Rogers says:

    OST: I agree on all your points. Even in his movies I don’t particularly care for ("Doubt," "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead," "The Savages," "Red Dragon"), Philip Seymour Hoffman always excels. I particularly love the flourishes he brings even to mainstream fare like "Along Came Polly" and "Mission: Impossible III." And yes, we really did have a lot of great films over the last 10 years. Thanks for reading!

  8. This film blew me away. Phillip is by far one of the greatest actors of our time. He chooses each role with care, and gives 100%. He is believable, honest, and true to every character he plays and this film was no exception. It was well written, played out extraordinary, and filmed just right. We really had a lot of great films in the last 10 years, and Phillips performance in this film was one of the best!