"Capote" (2005) is a brilliantly conceived and rendered movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman superb as Capote. Catherine Keener is novelist Harper Lee, Clifton Collins, Jr. is marvelous as killer Perry Smith, and Chris Cooper is Alvin Dewey, the chief investigator for The Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Occasionally Seymour can be faulted for excessive mimicry in his portrayal. The movie deals with the crucial part of Capote's life when he was researching his great non-fiction novel "In Cold Blood."
The movie starts with the vast open wheat fields and the Sunday morning discovery of Nancy Clutter's body by her girlfriend. When Capote shows up in the small Kansas town, a bit too much is made of Capote's flamboyant dress by the filmmakers; people weren't that primordial even in rural Kansas.
The movie shows the incredible access and trust he gained from everyone involved as he investigated the killing of the Clutters. It is not a flattering or favorable picture of Capote but rather a searing portrait of a self-absorbed and selfish writer who prized his book above the life of Perry Smith, a man who came to probably love him. Hickock and Smith were monsters of one sort, but Capote is pictured as being a monster of another sort. The movie makes short shrift of Hickock because Capote had less access to him.
We see views of Capote at New York cocktail parties entertaining his fellow guests, showing off, being vain, and petty and later flippant when he is recounting the gory details. Truman's relationship with his boyfriend is strained by his single-mindedness and callousness toward the condemned men.
The movie cuts back in forth between Capote in Kansas investigating and his periods in Manhattan writing or party-going. During the five and one half years of this case he was an obsessed man working on his greatest work.
Harper Lee, his friend, and herself author of "To Kill a Mockingbird" came to realize how selfish and cold-blooded he was in his pursuit of the story. This movie could have also been called "In Cold Blood" but referring to Truman rather than to the brutal murders. His desperate need for the story drives him to heartless acts and the brutal manipulation of Perry. Truman says to Harper about Perry, "He's a goldmine. When I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe." Later Truman says, "There was nothing I could do to save them," and Lee says, "You didn't want to save them."
Perry, anxiously awaiting the appeals, presses Truman to tell him the title of his book, but Truman prevaricates because he knows the title will upset Perry. Capote is unscrupulous, will do anything, hoodwink anyone to get his story. The crucial last piece he needs is the actual description of the murders by Perry.
At the very end of the film Truman's human emotions get the best of him. It's a brilliant piece of movie-making. See my review of "In Cold Blood" elsewhere on Amazon.