A terrific performance with nowhere to go, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s inhabitation of Truman Capote relies so heavily on subtlety and subext that it dissipates into thin air. Neither a topical investigation of the media’s dependence upon sensational subjects nor a particularly satisfying look into the creation of one of the last century’s great novels, Hoffman is forced to shoulder the burden of audience interest all by his lonesome. Because the script refuses to share the burden, and reduces the supporting turns of Chris Cooper, Catherine Keener, Bruce Greenwood and Bob Balaban to less-than-forgettable trifles — only Clifton Collins Jr., as the sensitive killer Perry Smith, is allowed any complexity — Hoffman is doomed to failure: no matter how great a force he makes his Truman, there is no opposing force to provide drama.
One wonders what the filmmakers thought they could illuminate on the big screen that biographers and other celebrants plus the classic adaptation of In Cold Blood haven’t already. A movie that manages to be dull without being preachy, flawed without making any mistakes, it doesn’t do justice to the outsize personality that was Truman Capote and for that reason will probably cost Hoffman an Oscar, if not a nomination.