Through no fault of its own — they were filmed at the same time — Infamous follows Capote to the multiplex a year later with British actor Toby Jones trying to fill the Oscar-winning footprints of Philip Seymour Hoffman as literary gadfly Truman Capote. Jones looks more like the small, impish Capote than Hoffman does — he has the nasal whine down pat — but his performance fails to cut as deep into the complexities of the man. Neither does the movie. Director Douglas McGrath, who adapted the script from a book by George Plimpton, treads the same turf laid out by Capote director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman, with Capote leaving behind the Manhattan social whirl for Kansas, where he investigates the grisly murder of the Clutter family. His reporting results in a nonfiction best seller, In Cold Blood, a triumph that left Capote adrift for the rest of his career trying to emerge from the shadow of the book’s success.
McGrath, laboring under the shadow of Miller’s film, surely knows the feeling. Comparisons are odious but unavoidable. McGrath pushes too hard on the gay angle. Capote’s relationship with one of the murderers, Perry Smith (new James Bond Daniel Craig), involves more than swapping anecdotes in jail. Craig goes bravely where no previous 007 has gone before when Perry, oozing menacing sexuality, damn near buggers Capote. Craig is also riveting in quieter moments, but the connection between the men feels off.
McGrath fares better in the lighter scenes that show Capote lording it over New York society with socialites Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver) and Slim Keith (Hope Davis) and publisher Bennett Cerf (Peter Bogdanovich). The film’s most pleasing surprise is the beautifully nuanced portrait of Capote’s confidante, To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, by Sandra Bullock. You heard me. Bullock gives the film what it otherwise lacks: the ring of truth.