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 film isn't for kids. It showcases difficult concepts and images, including mass murder, rape, homosexuality and homophobia, and the sensationalizing effects of media. Images include the Clutter family crime scene (bloody bodies and furniture), as well as several reenactments of violence: shooting, smothering, and an unnerving scene in a prison cell, where inmate threatens visitor. Execution by hanging shown explicitly, as is a passionate, illicit kiss in a prison cell. Characters make repeated references to sex and rape, some joking, some menacing. Characters smoke lots of cigarettes and drink often. Both prisoners and Manhattan socialites use foul language ("f--k" most frequently).
What's the story?
INFAMOUS centers on author Truman Capote's (Toby Jones) search for love and his blurring of fact and fiction as he develops his best-seller, In Cold Blood. Truman's search takes him to Holcomb, Kan., where, in 1959, the Clutter family was brutally murdered by Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) and Dick Hickock (Lee Pace). The flamboyant Truman brings along his subdued, thoughtful best friend, fellow writer Nelle Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock). She helps him seem less threatening to the locals, including Kansas Bureau of Investigations agent Alvin Dewey Jr. (Jeff Daniels). When Truman declares his intention to use "fictional techniques" to tell the story of the murders and the murderers, Lee advises him on the distinction between "reporting" and writing fiction. Truman's relationship with Perry Smith involves mutual exploitation and seduction. Both men conjure romantic fantasies about each other (culminating in a kiss in Perry's cell that leaves Truman unsettled). While Truman is entranced by Perry's violence, he's also afraid of it, seeing an alternate version of himself in his subject.
Is it any good?
The narrative of this film is compelling. Both Truman and Perry lost their mothers to suicide, both are homosexual during a time when they're persecuted for it, and both find outlets for their frustrations -- Truman in art and extravagant self-styling, Perry in murder. Truman's genius grants him adulation, while Perry becomes "infamous," but Truman is unable to forgive himself.
Douglas McGrath's movie focuses on how Truman judges people, including himself. It's clear that he's wracked by guilt, desire, and need, even as his pursuit of fame and admiration leads him to disregard others' feelings. To frame Truman's blurring of boundaries, the film cuts away repeatedly and awkwardly to "interviews" with his Manhattan acquaintances. These talking-head scenes become a showy display of famous people playing famous people, unfortunately highlighting the distinction between fiction and fact rather than complementing it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the close relationship between Truman and Nelle, who compete and support one another in their careers. How does the movie characterize their complicated friendship? And how does Truman's relationship with Perry reflect the author's own insecurities and desires to be a respected artist? How can art reshape violence so that it's thrilling or compelling? How does the movie suggest that Capote suffered for his art, his desire to be famous, and his unresolved personal conflicts? Families can also talk about some of the film's underlying issues, such as journalistic ethics, media sensationalism, and the death penalty.