Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Dueling films trying to tackle the same subject are nothing new to Hollywood . There were two films based around Alexander the Great being made at the same time. The one directed by Baz Luhrmann and rumored to have starred Leonardo DiCaprio was shelved and never made. Oliver Stone’s version Alexander was met with horrible reviews. Two dueling Janis Joplin biopics were rumored to be in competition with each other, in the end only one is in production starring Zooey Deschanel.
It seems, in most of these cases, that eventually one of these films makes it to the big screen. Although not every case is the same, keep in mind Paramount and Universal had dueling King Kong films and both were eventually made. But that was not the case with the two films surrounding author and notorious gossip, Truman Capote. Originally Capote and Infamous were set to come out within months of each other. Sadly, Infamous was met with setbacks and delayed while Capote was able to get released in 2005.
Capote swept the 2006 Academy Awards even gaining actor Philip Seymour Hoffman an award for Best Actor. Infamous was released in September of 2006 with a very modest budget, and as such it never garnered a huge fanbase. In my city, Sacramento, Infamous was in theaters for less than a month. So the question is, while Capote was the one who reaped all the benefits, is it in fact the better movie? In my opinion: no. While fans of the first movie might disagree with me, I feel Infamous was the one who was robbed of Oscar gold. Let the debate begin:
The dueling films both try to portray the same aspects of Capote’s life. This is the Clutter murders in Kansas, the foundation for Capote’s best seller In Cold Blood. The version told in Capote strictly focuses on Truman’s quest to finish his novel, and possibly help the killers get off. While they go into a little bit of Truman’s personal life, the film is very much about the novel and Capote’s relationship with Perry Smith in a business sense. Infamous takes a very different approach heavily focusing on Capote’s personal life, showing his famous Hollywood friends. Infamous also seems to take a more humorous tone. The Truman in Infamous has a lot of humorous one-liners while in Capote it is a very dramatic film overall.
The Lead Actor
While Philip Seymour Hoffman went home with the Best Actor Oscar for 2005 was his Capote portrayal the best? Hoffman’s Capote is played with more seriousness and more of a caricature. Hoffman plays the film as a writer trying to get a story while maintaining his sanity, as he gets into Perry Smith’s mindset. While Hoffman makes Capote sympathetic, his portrayal is very much the one that screams “Please give me an Oscar!” Toby Jones, on the other hand, embodies Capote. If anybody has ever read a biography on the author, then you’ll know that Toby Jones hit the nail on the head. His Truman is witty and sensitive on the outside, but a two-faced bitter bitch on the inside. He portrays Truman warts and all, showing him changing up Smith’s stories to all his friends to determine which one he likes better. If Infamous had come out before Capote, I guarantee Jones would have been recognized.
Perry Smith: Two Different Types of Killer
When it comes to killer Perry Smith’s depiction in the film, it is almost like showing two completely different people. Capote’s version of Smith was depicted by bit actor Clifton Collins Jr. His Smith is a very slight guy, innocent and soft spoken. When the movie shows the actual murders, Collins’ Smith seems almost incapable of doing it. In essence, he shows Smith as a disturbed man who was practically coerced into murder. In Infamous, new James Bond Daniel Craig takes on Perry Smith. Craig plays Smith as a repressed homosexual who has unresolved anger. He loves Truman, but if Capote tries to portray him in a negative light, he can turn on the anger in a second. What Craig does is lull the audience into a false sense of security, making you think that maybe Smith was wronged, but then having him turn into a lunatic.
Bullock or Keener? Either Way They Try To Kill a Mockingbird
Sandra Bullock and Catherine Keener both play famed author Harper Lee, confidant and personal friend to Truman Capote. Keener plays Lee in Capote as a main character, and she is in the film almost throughout. Her Harper knows how Truman really is; she is almost his mother, able to calm him down. She also knows how incredibly selfish Capote is; when the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird is released Truman could care less. Harper understands that in reality Truman is an incredibly selfish man. In Infamous Bullock’s Harper Lee does not take any of Truman’s crap but she is very much second fiddle to the main story. Bullock is not in the film for very long but when she is she is definitely has the ability to wrangle Truman in.
The Relationship between the Stars
The main controversy surrounding Infamous was the overt homosexual overtones in the film. There is even a very intense make-out scene between Jones and Craig in the film. Infamous plays up the fact that there was very much a relationship between the two that was more than platonic. The film goes with the angle that Smith and Capote were very much in love, and when Truman could not save Perry it ruined his life. Capote is very subtle in showing the love between Truman and Perry, instead really showing it as more of a strong friendship with a hint of love. While they both convey the same message, the relationship is definitely stronger and more fleshed out in the former.
Overall, while both films are amazing and have their own set of fans, they depict two sides to the same coin. Capote’s story is more dramatic, with a more detailed story behind the writing of In Cold Blood. Infamous takes a more lighthearted approach with a stronger relationship between the two leads. While I feel Infamous was robbed of its glory, definitely go back and look at both films. Both encapsulate a fascinating and complicated man, and even if you ultimately disagree with my conclusion, you'll still walk away appreciating two films, and one hell of an author.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.