A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature drama concerns Truman Capote's research into multiple murders in Kansas, 1959, for his book In Cold Blood. It includes images of bloody bodies, crime scene photos, discussions of the means of killing (knife and shotgun), allusions to rape and racist assumptions (before the killers are caught, someone suggests "Mexicans" committed the crime). Characters drink and smoke, at parties, at home, and alone. Capote is flamboyantly gay, discusses gay relationships, discusses sex (including a phone conversation with friend/writer James Baldwin, with references to interracial, interfaith sex), and some cursing (one use of the f-word). Capote tells a story about hearing of his mother's death
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What's the story?
CAPOTE follows author Truman Capote as he investigates, researches, and develops the first non-fiction novel – his bestseller In Cold Blood, about the brutal murders of the Clutter family in their Kansas farmhouse. Capote's research, undertaken with the assistance of his friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), initiates a relationship with Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper). Capote's eerie intuition about crime scene details vaguely impresses Dewey, who thought he'd seen it all before this case, but Capote is more in love with his talent than any admirer could be. In order to create a dramatic book, Capote begins a creepy relationship with murderers Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino). He develops a not-so-long distance relationship with Perry especially, as they develop something like mutual crushes. Capote's self-delusion drives the movie, which reshapes his ambition as a kind of psychic vampirism. He has a story in mind, a shape for his climax, and he's only waiting for it to proceed as he knows it will. Lee sees through Capote's posturing, as does his extremely low-key lover Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood).
Is it any good?
This intriguing film reveals the monster Capote sees in himself -- or more accurately, the monster the movie sees him seeing. According to the movie, adapted from Gerald Clarke's book by Dan Futterman, Capote is pretty much undone by the experience. A closing note reveals that following the publication of In Cold Blood, Capote became a superstar and never wrote another book. Instead, he essentially drank himself to death, at 59. The film allows glimpses of Capote's struggles with the dilemmas before him -- he self-medicates, resists responsibility for the emotional havoc he's wreaking, won't take Perry's collect calls, and argues with Jack.
Still, he seeks salvation -- or sustained celebrity -- in his dazzling new book. "If I leave here without understanding you," he tells Perry during one of their last meetings, "the world will see you as a monster. I don't want that." But what Capote wants is his story, understanding filtered through his own genius. That story reveals the dangers of journalism in search of authenticity and based in intimacy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the question of journalistic ethics. How does Capote develop and then betray a trust with Perry? How does the film make their shared sympathy -- as "outsiders" at once sympathetic and dangerous? How does the movie present the death penalty, as punishment, justice, revenge, and/or object of media sensationalism?
- In theaters: September 30, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: March 21, 2006
- Cast: Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, Philip Seymour Hoffman
- Director: Bennett Miller
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some violent images and brief strong language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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