Directed By: Douglas McGrath
Starring: Toby Jones, Daniel Craig, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Daniels, Sigourney Weaver, Lee Pace
"Infamous" is the second film released in the last year to deal with the subject of Truman Capote's writing of "In Cold Blood". While this is uncommon in the world of film, it is not all that unusual in the world of literature where numerous biographical books about the same subject will be in print at any given time. One gets the feeling that Capote would be pleased with the attention even if he did not like the movies.
The "truthiness" is, anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news...at you. - Stephen Colbert
The film tracks the path of Capote (Jones) through the six years begining in late 1959 when he sees a New York Times article on the unsolved slaying of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas and ending with the publication and positive reception of his "Nonfiction novel" on the subject, "In Cold Blood". After establishing Capote's New York world and social circle, we travel with him and childhood friend Nelle Harper Lee (Bullock) to Holcomb, Kansas where, with some difficulty, he eventually ingratiates himself enough with the locals, including the intially reticent sheriff, Alvin Dewey (Daniels), to begin gathering information for his book. A lot of humor is milked from the fish out of water nature of the flamboyant Capote in the staid midwestern farm town. The film shifts significantly in tone when Dick Hickock (Pace) and Perry Smith (Craig) are arrested for the murders. While Capote has little trouble getting Hickock to talk, his usual tricks do not work with Smith. Capote's continued efforts to convince the unexpectedly intelligent and sensitive Smith to talk on the record and Smith's reactions to those efforts result in an unusual emotional bond forming between them. Capote must then try to reconcile the nature of this personal relationship with his exploitative compulsion to get what he needs for his book.
Thematically, "Infamous" contends that Capote was able to create his greatest work through manipulation of the subjective truth, which he expected but never admitted, and of his own emotional truth, which he did not expect and from which he never fully recovered.
Writer/Director Douglas McGrath's screenplay is adapted from George Plimpton's "Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall his Turbulent Career". In a nod to the oral history approach of Plimpton's book, McGrath uses talking head segments of actors in character speaking retrospectively about Capote. These segments are clustered mainly near the film's opening and conclusion to introduce the audience to Capote's world and to provide an epilogue indicating how the events in the film affected the rest of Capote's life.
Toby Jones looks and sounds remarkably like the real Capote. While initially his performance appears all surface detail and affectation, he incrementally reveals more of Capote's inner life as he is affected by his interactions with Perry Smith. Daniel Craig, almost unrecognizable with dark hair, contact lenses, and a perfect American accent, is very effective as Smith. He achieves the difficult balance of soulful sensitivity with a frightening capacity for violence that is essential to make Perry believable. Craig is let down somewhat by the make-up department in that his darkened hair color has some distractingly unnatural highlights. Sandra Bullock nicely underplays the buttoned-up, gracious Nelle Harper Lee, although she does have a few shaky accent moments. Jeff Daniels hits the right congenial businesslike midwestern tone as Sheriff Dewey. McGrath must have called in a lot of favors when casting numerous big name actors in the roles of Capote's New York social circle. They include Sigourney Weaver, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Bogdonavich, Isabella Rossellini, Hope Davis, and, as a nightclub singer appearing only in the film's opening scene, Gwyneth Paltrow.
The film is presented in a transfer that fills the complete 16:9 enhanced frame. The transfer features rich deep colors and excellent shadow detail. The beautiful production design of the various New York apartments and night clubs is particularly well served (you will definitely want to party at Diana Vreeland's pad after seeing this). It is encoded at a high bitrate resulting in a smooth film-like transfer with little to no compression artifacts. It is only marred by visible halos along high contrast vertical edges most noticeably in the Kansas exteriors
The Dolby Digital 5.1 English track has excellent fidelity as one would expect from a modern production. The surrounds are used effectively for ambience, creating a nice sense of depth.
The primary extra is a feature-length audio commentary from writer-director Douglas McGrath. The track is clear and well organized. The majority of his comments relate to the process of adapting, researching, and structuring the story, although he does include many anecdotes about the production of the film and the cast as well.
Also included is the film's theatrical trailer, presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen with 2.0 stereo sound.
When the disc is first inserted, skippable promotional trailers play for "The Painted Veil", "For Your Consideration", "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus", and "The Prestige". The former two are presented in 4:3 letterbox widescreen, while the latter two are 16:9 enhanced. All have 2.0 stereo sound.
The film comes in a standard Amaray-type hard plastic case with no insert.
While not the Oscar magnet that last years "Capote" proved to be, Douglas McGrath's take on the story of how Truman Capote wrote his best known novel is still worthy of attention, and is well presented on this DVD with a thoughtful and well-organized commentary to boot.