by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Talent, research, and dedication aren't always enough. Sometimes ya gotta pick your spots. If Infamous had come out a year and a half earlier it might well have earned many Oscar nominations. It is an excellent evocation of the six years that author Truman Capote dedicated to the creation of his masterwork, In Cold Blood, and is anchored by a pluperfect performance by Toby Jones, who looks and sounds exactly like Mr. Capote. This is not an actor playing Capote. This is Capote come back to life to play himself.

Only one problem. Been there; done that. In September of 2005, just thirteen months before Infamous was released, another excellent film (Capote) came out, which covered the exact same story, within the exact same period of time, with a very similar spin, and with another acclaimed performance (by Philip Seymour Hoffman). The earlier film grossed about twenty million dollars, pretty solid numbers for a cerebral film about a flamboyantly gay writer and his relationship with a convicted mass murderer. The first film also won an Oscar for Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's reasonable to say that the Hofman version exhausted the public demand for this tale, as well as the academy's quota of awards to be given to Truman Capote impersonators and films featuring them.

That's a shame, because Infamous is a film of comparable quality to Capote, and Toby's performance is (I'm about to commit a sacrilege here) as good as or better than Hoffman's Oscar-winning turn.

The basic difference between the two films is that Infamous is the more visceral, Capote the more cerebral. The Infamous version of the story is not based on a formal biography, as the first one was, but rather on a series of gossipy interviews conducted by George Plimpton in his book, "Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career." The Hoffman version kept a great emotional distance in the interactions between its characters, and left much unsaid, often building a wall between itself and its audience, and living in the minds of its characters. Infamous lives in the passions of its characters. The quasi-sexual relationship between Capote and Perry Smith is right out in the open, whether historically accurate or not. Killer Perry Smith admits to being in love with the author, and Capote reciprocates to the extent that anyone can love a man who has slaughtered four people and will soon hang. They exchange a sexual kiss in the privacy of Smith's cell, and Smith publicly kisses Capote goodbye when he is led off to the gallows. In this latest version of the story, Capote is not merely manipulating the killer to create a better book, but is genuinely involved with his heart, and is distraught after Smith's hanging. His failure to intercede on behalf of the killers was not a matter of callousness (as in the earlier film), but powerlessness. It is the thesis of this screenplay that the emotional devastation of watching Smith hanged was what ultimately caused Capote's life to disintegrate and his career to founder after the publication of In Cold Blood. This version of Truman Capote is deeper and more capable of genuine emotion than the one Hoffman created in Capote. Hoffman's version of the character was brilliant, but possessed neither emotional depth nor a moral compass.

They are both good movies, but Capote is a film to admire from afar, while Infamous is more engaging and a better story (if perhaps not as likely to be true). Infamous has more gaiety in the New York social whirl, and more tension in the Smith/Capote encounters. It has higher highs and lower lows than the first film. It also has a brilliant supporting performance from Daniel Craig (the new 007), who brings intensity and intellectual strength to the role of Perry Smith. While the first film showed a cold and manipulative Capote pulling Smith's strings like a puppet-master, Infamous shows them as duelists, exchanging the position of advantage from time to time. Capote gets severely reprimanded by Smith when his efforts are obviously insincere and manipulative. This version of Perry Smith is every bit Capote's intellectual equal. Smith is even an incisive critic of Capote's earlier books, because the killer has to study the works intensely in order to determine whether Capote is the sort of man to whom he should trust his life story. While Truman still manages to manipulate Smith to some extent, he has to reach deep inside himself to do so, because Smith is not easily fooled by Capote's first superficial efforts. In doing that, Truman eventually lets down his guard and offers his real self. Although he is a man who never really loved, he comes as close as he ever did with Perry Smith. Only after sensing that does Smith soften and co-operate with the book.

I really am never comfortable in cobbling films into the vocabulary of "better" or "worse." Oh, of course I do it for fun now and again as we all do when he have a beer or two and somebody at the bar says, "Best sports film?" Who can resist that? But I'll start taking it seriously only when somebody can offer me a methodology that will allow me to evaluate whether Pulp Fiction is better or worse than Fantasia. And it's not just that I hate trying to rank disparate films. In the case of Capote and Infamous, the films are as similar as any two films can be, and I'm still not comfortable in listing them vertically. But I will say this without qualification: although I am open to the idea that Capote is a smarter film, and will acknowledge that it is certainly subtler, I like Infamous better. In fact, much better.


* widescreen anamorphic

* full-length commentary by the writer/director







It won no significant awards.

3 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
71 British Consensus  (of 100)
71 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
68 (of 100)


7.2 IMDB summary (of 10)
B- Yahoo Movies


Box Office Mojo. It grossed a million dollars in a maximum of 179 theaters. That had to be considered a major disappointment since the budget was $13 million.


  • A prostitute's right breast is seen in her sex scene with the Dick Hickok character. The actress is undentified.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Audiences are never going to flock to see a film about the sexual tension between an openly gay author and a closeted gay multiple murderer, so the rating can't be B or A, but it's a good watch.