Capote ★★★★★

As part of my rare-book dealership at eBay, I recently had a chance to acquire a first printing of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (on sale for only $95! What a deal!); and so that got me interested in going back and rewatching this Oscar-winning film about the researching and writing of it, which I hadn't seen since it had been in theaters in 2005. The movie is naturally compelling because the true story is just so fascinating -- an effete public homosexual in a pre-Stonewall era, who normally spent his time in Manhattan hobnobbing with rich society women, Capote became obsessed with a brutal murder in Kansas seemingly done for no reason, eventually spending years interviewing both locals and the killers, singlehandedly inventing the literary genre now known as "true crime," then never publishing another book again.

It's just icing on the cake, then, that this turned out to be the career highlight of the brilliant but troubled Philip Seymour Hoffman; and of course it doesn't hurt the story's interest that his childhood-friend traveling companion turned out to be none other than Harper Lee (played in the movie by a game Catherine Keener), unknown at the time but who became internationally famous for To Kill a Mockingbird right in the middle of Capote's own project. The movie itself is not much more than a by-the-books Oscarbait biopic; but when you're telling this interesting a story, centered around as perfect an actor as Hoffman, even an unremarkable production such as this is naturally elevated into a must-see. It comes strongly recommended, but only under the circumstances just described, where you keep your expectations for the movie low but for the narrative and acting high.