Following directly in the footsteps of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar winning turn in 2006, Toby Jones now takes on the role of Truman Capote - the famously eccentric American novelist, playwright and screenwriter - in Infamous.
The story begins as Capote is starting work on his most famous book, “In Cold Blood”, which chronicled the brutal slaying of a Kansas family in 1959. While researching the subject he grows close to one of the murderers, Perry Smith (a pre-Bond Daniel Craig), and faces an impossible - for the notoriously egocentric writer - decision.
Should he use his research to help his new friend’s appeal or let the execution go ahead as it is the only fitting conclusion to his masterpiece?
Typical, you wait years for a disaster movie about an asteroid destroying the world and then two come along at once. That was what happened in 1998 with Armageddon and Deep Impact, and a similar situation arose last year when two rival, but virtually identical, biopics about Truman Capote were completed.
To avoid a nasty clash that would have affected box office takings the producers of Infamous decided to push back the release date as they had begun filming slightly later.
But since then, of course, Philip Seymour Hoffman wiped the floor with all comers at the Oscars and now the question on everyone’s lips is “what’s the point in going to see another Capote film when we know the story and the performances can’t be topped?”
And the answer? Toby Jones.
The English character actor has given a performance that also would have won at last year’s Academy Awards, mimicking Capote’s bizarre voice and camp mannerisms (he is described at one point as a “talking Brussels sprout”) with astounding accuracy, but also bearing a far more natural resemblance to the writer than Hoffman’s stature afforded.
The script from writer/director Douglas McGrath also injects more humour into proceedings, particularly for the first half hour and shows what a lively and charismatic man Capote was before he began working on In Cold Blood. The device of bringing Capote back from Kansas to New York at various intervals during the film also shows how the experience begins to affect the writer, so that by the end of the film he is almost unrecognisable from the comic entertainer that we met at the start.
An intelligent audio commentary from writer / director Douglas McGrath is the only extra (apart from the trailer - for anyone that’s actually interested in such things) offered on this lightweight special features package.
While McGrath chronicles the detailed research process he undertook before writing the movie, he fails to make even passing mention to “that other Capote film”. Hearing his reaction when he first learned about the rival biopic – or explaining the logic behind Warner Bros’ decision to delay the release of Infamous – would have enlivened the talk track no end.
While not as subtle or sombre as Bennett Miller’s earlier movie, and the absence of any meaningful demonstration of Capote’s burgeoning pill and alcohol addiction is a serious flaw, Infamous remains an intelligent, witty, and beautifully acted biopic that can be enjoyed even if last year’s movie sits fresh in the mind.
Staring: Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, Jeff Daniels, Sigourney Weaver, Isabelle Rosselini, Gwyneth Paltrow
Extras: Commentary by Writer/Director Douglas McGrath