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Review: Capote

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We don’t like to admit it, but many of our generation first met Truman Capote not through one of his books, but through his appearance in the mystery spoof Murder by Death, in which he played the nutty, flaming impresario at the center of a homicide investigated by some classic sleuths. Was this reedy-voiced, impossibly prissy man for real? Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance in Capote at first seems like a dead-on portrayal of the weirdly charismatic figure’s mannerisms. But something’s missing.
    Director Bennett Miller, screenwriter Dan Futterman and Hoffman are no doubt aware of the weird stuntlike quality of their film, which focuses on the writing of Capote’s 1965 masterpiece In Cold Blood. The author himself may be somewhat comical, but the story itself is as serious as it gets: The book tells the tale of two drifters who were hanged for slaughtering a Kansas family in 1959. While researching Blood, Capote befriended the murderers, lying about his intentions to gain access to their lives, at times even refusing to help them find a lawyer.
    To its credit, Miller’s film doesn’t water down Capote’s deception, nor does it pull back on the homoerotic undertones to the author’s fascination with his subjects. The problem is that Capote was also a mean sonofabitch, and Hoffman, despite his A-list effort at imitating him, remains too much of a teddy bear to pull off the author’s dark side. Capote is somber, engaging, and accomplished — but both the film and the performance lack the bitter edge that made the man such a scarily compelling figure. — Bilge Ebiri

Review: Occupation: Dreamland
Boy runs into trouble at home. Boy doesn’t know what to do with his life. Boy looks for answers. Boy joins the Army. Boy discovers he’s made a big mistake. Shipped overseas with people he doesn’t know, for people he doesn’t care about, and around people that don’t care about him, boy is forced to muscle confused, innocent Iraqis with only the glossy images of teenage testosterone rags (showcasing Britney Spears bathed in diamonds) to bring him back to earth.
   “This is the story of seven strangers picked to live in a cabana in Falluja, Iraq,” as one metalhead sargeant describes it. But the film is more than that. It shows how conflicted some of the soldiers are about their lot, and how odd the small-town boys feel to be at war in the Middle East. “If you would have told me I’d be in the Army,” one says, “I’d have told you to go fuck yourself.” — David Diehl
Also This Weekend

Friday Night Must-See
A History of Violence
— In David Cronenberg’s latest, Viggo Mortensen gets to be more overtly disturbing than usual.

Serenity — Joss Whedon continues his canceled Fox series Firefly. Geek out! We’re rooting for this one; its success could open the gates for those Fastlane and Tru Calling adaptations we’ve been praying for.

Saturday Afternoon Diversion
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio — Julianne Moore telepathically embodies her third beleaguered 1950s housewife in three years, yet it feels like the very first time. Here, she’s a mother of ten whose husband can’t get his shit together, so she enters jingle-writing contests to support the family. WE REALLY WANT TO SEE THIS. But why? Maybe because we’d happily stand in line to watch Julianne Moore walk down the street. Which we actually sort of did once.
Sunday Night Guilty Pleasure
Into the Blue — Two of today’s finest torsos, occasionally supplied with sound and motion by the heads of Jessica Alba and Paul Walker, stumble onto a sea-based gang of drug dealers. Wetness, shark business and the swinging-around of blunt objects ensue. Here is the equation: Blue Lagoon + Dead Calm ÷ Porkys. Here is the question: would the experience be much less satisfying if you just stayed home and waited for the hotter screen captures to surface online?

— Michael Martin

Date DVD: The Outsiders and Rumble Fish
When choosing a date DVD, nostalgia may rank second only to shock in terms of sheer effectiveness. A scary movie can impel your date to hold you until the bloodletting is over, but a sentimental one can keep you up all night talking — in this case, about how hot Diane Lane was, how Emilio Estevez’s career is almost as strange as Matt Dillon’s, or how odd it is that Tom Cruise was the most forgettable Greaser in the gang.
    So pick up a new cut of The Outsiders and a reissue of Rumble Fish, two films by Francis Ford Coppola. He’s the unacknowledged American king of nostalgia, so powerful that he made the entire country yearn for the good old days of the mafia. His two S. E. Hinton adaptations share The Godfather‘s wistfulness for roots and youthful violence, as well as that series’ maudlin moral: love and family persist, no matter who gets gunned down.
    Coppola’s new, longer cut of The Outsiders is the real catch. The new score of fast-paced ’50s tunes seems a little too joyful, particularly during the film’s most violent scenes. And Coppola apparently couldn’t cut the bad Robert Frost poem, nor the scene in which Greasers stop to wonder if Dally ever saw a sunset. There are some laughably earnest moments, but if there’s any time to be earnest, it’s on a date. Stay golden, Ponyboy, stay golden. — Logan Hill

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