No such thing as too much Truman

Huzzah, we got to see Infamous on Friday night!

Infamous is ‘the other Capote movie.’ It was made at the same time as Capote, but released a year later. Makes for an interesting academic exercise…take the same subject, two sets of actors and filmmakers, make two different movies. Is it possible for them both to be good? Is it possible for them to tell the story in different ways, or will they be boringly similar?

Infamous takes a completely different approach to the subject than Capote, but is still damn good. So much so that it’s impossible for me to say which one I like better. Capote is better as a movie. It’s visual style is so well-thought out and executed, it’s tone, it’s pacing….all so obviously part of one clear guiding vision so that it all hangs together as a perfect whole. Infamous is uneven, doesn’t seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be, and the result is often jarring…but I think it was better as a story about Truman Capote.

I’m not saying that Infamous doesn’t take some extreme liberties with events, but overall it keeps truer to the timeline and ways in which things really happened that Capote did. Everything in Infamous rang truer to me than anything in Capote, based on the obsessive Truman-related reading I’ve done. It presents a fuller picture of Truman’s life, showing us much more of his NY society friends and that world, whereas Capote stayed focused like a laser on the writing of In Cold Blood to the exclusion of everything else. I loved seeing the extra stuff, but I am an obsessive fangirl. Capote gave us a better picture of Capote the author, Infamous glosses over the writing and gives us Capote the gossip, the sprite-about-town, the irrepressibly flaming bitch. :) At some points, Toby Jones’ performance of Truman veers headlong into pure camp, and Infamous is a comedy. But then the next scene will go back to Kansas, the ‘serious theme’ comes up on the soundtrack, and it’s back to drama. Like I said, uneven. But on the other hand, that’s probably an accurate depiction on what Truman’s life was like at the time.

I can’t decide whose Truman I like better, either. Toby Jones in Infamous looks much more like the real Truman, but he overplays too much. Not even Truman was THAT flamey THAT much of the time. On the other hand PSH in Capote looked nothing like Truman, but I think he did the voice better. But he underplayed it too much. Hmmm. I think I’m gonna go with Toby for now, because there were many times in Infamous where I had to remind myself I wasn’t watching a documentary…guy looks a LOT like Truman! I do have a clear pick on who played the better Harper Lee between the two movies, and it will surprise you…..Sandra Bullock was a great Harper Lee in Infamous. Let’s face it: no one knows what the real Harper was like. The only frame of reference we have is the movie of To Kill A Mockingbird, and I think Sandra studied that movie intently and based her performance on it. Her voice was a perfect imitation of the woman who narrated TKAM. She changed her walk and stance so that she moved like a grown-up tomboy Scout would…very unladylike. She also had more of a warmth to her Harper that made her more believable as the woman who wrote that lovely book.

I could go back and forth comparing everything all day. But my bottom line will remain, Capote is better as a perfectly realised piece of cinema. Infamous is more fun to watch, and better as a Truman Capote biopic. But there’s no reason to have to pick sides! I think they should both be required viewing; they are almost like companion pieces to each other. Throw in the 1967 film of In Cold Blood and make a marathon of it! It’d be a great way to spend a day.

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