Oscar gold and cinematic success

Emily Triebwasser

After the Oscar pandemonium has died down, I decided that, as a film lover, I should see those that elicited a victory. “Capote” is one of the few on that list. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Adapted Screenplay and Catherine Keener (who played Harper Lee) was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The crowning glory of the film, however, was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar win for Best Actor.

Writing a book has a major effect on the author, as Philip Seymour Hoffman brilliantly depicts in “Capote.” The film follows the life of Truman Capote (of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” fame) before, during and after his writing of the nonfiction “In Cold Blood,” based on the brutal 1959 murder of a family in Kansas.

While researching with fellow novelist Nell Harper Lee, Capote becomes inexplicably and emotionally attached to the two convicted killers, Perry Smith in particular. He even dares to claim that they “grew up in the same house, and one day [Perry] went out the back door and I went out the front.” The bond that he forms with these men on death row psychologically devastates him until his book is finally completed in 1966.

Hoffman’s portrayal of Capote’s emotional struggles is phenomenal. Not only was he faced with the challenge to imitate Capote’s mannerisms, unique dialect and physical orientation (he lost 40 pounds to play the role), but he also was obliged to show his reluctant compassion for these sociopaths. Although Capote’s sensitive core yearned to save them from their death sentence, he knew that he needed absolute closure before finishing his book, and strove to release himself from psychological turmoil. Hoffman’s Oscar for Best Actor was well-deserved.

The film itself, while it seems slow-moving and slightly boring in the beginning, does an excellent job of remaining true to history. Once it is apparent that the movie is divided into Truman’s life before, during, and after “In Cold Blood,” it becomes much more enjoyable and fluid. The viewer will find that there is no original score, which I believe that it makes the story seem much more credible and realistic. Life has no background music, and thus “Capote” has no background music.

The plot itself is not exciting or gripping in itself, but rather an accomplished, stirring psychological account of one man’s life-altering experience. Brilliantly acted, this film does the memory of Truman Capote a service as it tells the oft-overlooked demise of one of America’s most gifted writers.

“Capote” is filmmaking at its best and is a real outside-the-box production of non-fiction. Hoffman’s Oscar was richly deserved, and I truly believe that this is one Oscar-winner that ought not to be neglected.