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Douglas McGrath
Toby Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock, Isabella Rossellini, Michael Panes, Hope Davis, Frank G. Curcio
Writing Credits:
Douglas McGrath, George Plimpton (book)

1959 Manhattan was a party, and none of the glitterati glittered brighter than Truman Capote. Then he saw a story in The New York Times: "Wealthy Farmer, 3 of Family Slain," and the party ended for Capote. He plunged into the murder case that inspired his great "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood and led him into a fevered relationship with one of the two doomed killers. But there's more to the story than you know. Toby Jones (as Capote) leads Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, Sigourney Weaver and many more stars in a witty, moving and astonishing tale of obsession. What happened to the extraordinary literary talent that burned within Truman Capote? The answer may be found in a story at once famous and Infamous.

Box Office:
$13 million.
Opening Weekend
$452.966 thousand on 179 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.150 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 2/13/2007

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Douglas McGrath
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Infamous (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 1, 2007)

As I mentioned when I reviewed The Illusionist, often when two similarly themed movies hit screens in rapid succession, the second one does the best. For instance, though Illusionist came out first, The Prestige sold a lot more tickets.

That pattern didn’t benefit 2006’s Infamous, the second flick about Truman Capote to reach screens in two years. 2005’s Capote got all the attention. It received five Oscar nominations and took home one prize, whereas Infamous got not a single nod from the Academy. In addition, although Capote only made $28 million, that blew away the barely $1 million take of Infamous.

So it looks like Infamous will be stuck with “also-ran” status, though it remains to be seen if it deserves that. Like Capote, Infamous focuses on one specific era of writer Truman Capote’s life. Here played by Toby Jones, we start in November 1959 as he learns about the killing of the Clutter family in Kansas. Capote sees a blurb about this in the newspaper and decides to write his own story. Along with his assistant and long-time friend Nelle Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock), he heads out to Kansas to research the case.

When the authorities bring in the alleged murderers, Capote gets to know them as well. He spends only a little time with Dick Hickock (Lee Pace), as he prefers to focus on intelligent, sensitive Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) instead. Capote devotes many hours of discussion to Smith and appears to be sympathetic to the killer and his case. The film follows the writing of the book and the complications along the way.

Does it seem fair that as I watched Infamous, I constantly compared it to Capote? Probably not, but given that they tell the same story, this became inevitable.

And when I say “the same story”, I mean it. This isn’t a situation like Deep Impact and Armageddon in which two similar flicks appear. Capote and Infamous follow absolutely identical tales, with only minor differences to separate them.

The main variation stems from the presentation of the characters. In Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman created a brilliant three-dimensional character out of a personality I never thought we could see as anything more than a cartoon. The real Capote was so flamboyant and fey that it becomes tough for actors to do anything with the part other than rely on quirks and mannerisms. Hoffman incorporated those but didn’t let them overwhelm him. Instead, he formed a real person and brought out shocking nuance.

Toby Jones isn’t that good. On the surface, he looks and acts more like the real Capote, but he can’t bring out the psychological depth that Hoffman found. Jones puts things more on the surface, as he plays Capote in a way that makes his emotions more obvious. This doesn’t feel right to me, though perhaps Hoffman spoiled me. After such a stellar performance, it seems inevitable that anyone else will come up short.

Infamous also makes other aspects of the film more obvious. We get a more graphic depiction of the relationship between Capote and King, and the flick spells out aspects of Truman’s life in a more defined way. Throughout the film, we get “interviews” with Capote’s friends as they discuss him. This technique essentially goes bye-bye after the first act, though it returns toward the end.

I didn’t like it. The “interviews” don’t fit with the movie’s framework and become an unnecessary distraction. They tell us little that we couldn’t have learned otherwise, and they feel stagy. Their inconsistent use also contributes to their awkwardness; it’s as though the filmmakers weren’t clever enough to use other means, so they resorted to these when necessary.

Infamous certainly features an excellent cast, though don’t expect much from many of them. Of the supporting actors, Craig and Bullock get the most work. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t allow them to do much. Actually, Craig makes a good impression as the tough but sensitive King. Something seemed wrong about his physical appearance – his dark contacts made him look like he has eyes as black as frying pans – but he pulled off both the scary and the tender parts of the role.

On the other hand, Bullock proves less impressive. Catherine Keener offered such a nice take on Lee in Capote that there seems little for Bullock to do to make a mark. The film’s awkward use of her doesn’t help, as Lee gets much less to do here than in Capote. She served a real purpose in that flick, while here she comes along for little discernible reason.

At least that’s better than most of the others. We find talents like Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Daniels, Isabella Rosselini and Hope Davis, none of whom boast real roles. Some fare better than others – at least Weaver, Davis and Daniels almost get to form characters – but none create an impression. Paltrow and Rosselini are stuck with bizarrely short screen appearances; we see so little of them that I wonder if they did the flick as a favor to someone but couldn’t offer more than one day each.

To be fair, I don’t think that Infamous is a bad film. On its own, it seems interesting and acceptably well-crafted. However, given the existence of the superior Capote, it becomes superfluous. I can find almost nothing in Infamous that didn’t work better in Capote.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Infamous appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite a smattering of minor issues, the transfer usually seemed solid.

A few concerns connected to sharpness. At times, I thought the movie came across as a little soft, partially due to some edge enhancement. Nonetheless, the majority of the flick appeared accurate and concise. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws appeared absent.

Given that much of it takes place in Kansas or in prison, the majority of Infamous featured a flat palette. Colors perked up during the Manhattan shots, especially during parties. At all times, the tones made sense for the film and looked fine. Blacks were dark and solid, but shadows could be a bit murky. Overall, this was a good but unexceptional image.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Infamous. I didn’t expect much ambition from the soundfield and the mixed lived up to what I anticipated. Music showed good stereo presence, and the movie offered decent ambience. That was about it, though, as the flick lacked much to make use of the various channels. A rainstorm and nightclubs brought out a little life, but the majority of the film remained appropriately subdued.

No issues with audio quality emerged. Speech was distinctive and crisp, while the subdued score sounded clear and full. Effects showed good delineation and accuracy, with a broad range of dynamics. Though there was nothing here to tax my system, the track fit the material.

Not many extras finish the set. We find an audio commentary from writer/director Douglas McGrath. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. McGrath looks at research, facts and liberties, locations and set design, script and story issues, themes and what he wanted to impart with the tale, cast and performances, music and cinematography, and a mix of other production topics.

McGrath creates a consistently involving commentary. He digs into the subjects with gusto and shows a real enthusiasm for the material. Along with the nuts and bolts, he throws out many good Capote stories such as one in which Truman and Norman Mailer went into an Irish bar. We also hear more serious tales that flesh out our knowledge of the real Capote and the thought that went into the movie. McGrath gives us a fine look at his film in this strong commentary.

The DVD opens with previews for The Painted Veil, For Your Consideration, The Prestige and Fur. It also includes the trailer for Infamous.

If Capote never existed, then Infamous would probably work as a pretty good movie. There’s little really wrong with the movie, as it offers a reasonably interesting view of one important period in the life of author Truman Capote. However, since Capote already told the same story and did it much more successfully, there’s nothing about Infamous to attract an audience. The DVD presents fine to good picture and audio as well as a very useful audio commentary. Unless you’re just curious to compare and contrast, skip Infamous and stick with the superior Capote.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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