Monday, October 16, 2006

Criminal Lovers

Chances are, you're not like me. I saw last year's Capote and then countlessly braced myself in the countless conversations which followed suit as I expressed my luke-warm feelings for the film. "I enjoyed watching it." was my guarded response. I thought it was a finely made work, but it didn't really hit any of the chords which audiences abound seemed to be hemming and hawing over. Hoffman was fine - in truth I'll never really get over his "pump pump pump..." monologue in Happiness, but that's my problem. Well, now we have a counterwork on the writing of 'In Cold Blood' and though it is no masterpiece, it is certainly my preferred retelling. But then, I'm a sucker for Christine Vachon.

Most people are not really familiar Vachon. Though we cluster our directors' ouvres together ceaselessly, the general movie going public remains unawares of the integral feat of Production. However, a quick perusal of Vachon's resume finds a shocking many successful and varied works: Poison, Swoon, Go Fish, Kids, [Safe], Kiss Me, Guido, I Shot Andy Warhol, Happiness, Velvet Goldmine, Boys Don't Cry, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, One Hour Photo, Party Monster, The Company, A Dirty Shame and The Notorious Betty Page, to name just a few - a veritable who's who and what's what of independent film. Vachon has been singled out as a producer to receive the primarily Director fueled Outfest achievement award and been nominated for more Independent Spirit Awards than I have pairs of underwear. Helming yet another masterful crew of art directors, costumers, cinematographers and a plethoric assortment of indie deities, Vachon's hand is everpresent in Douglas McGrath's telling of this now known tale.

Yet she doesn't get all the cred, here. First off, allow me to applaud Toby Jones' fearless (and assuredly Oscar-nodless) portrayal of a - gasp - sexualized Truman Capote. Early on, I believe the reenacted Gore Vidal - though I may be mistaken - describes Capote's sibilance as "if a brussel sprout could talk..." And, true to form, Jones' take at the faye scribe is grating and flamboyant to an excruciating degree. Yet here, we are allowed to see just why he was the icon of the New York social scene. His countless quotables are peppered in with slightly less severe depictions of his careless betrayals. A shared secret "shall die inside me," only to be recounted in the following scene.

For the most part, however, the artist-as-monster theme is cast by the wayside for a slightly less complicated tale of criminal love, as Capote and Perry(Daniel Craig, mmmmm....), the more artistically inclined of the killers, fall hopelessly in love. Capote is of course betrothed to Jack Dunphry so his affections are more or less sequestered. Craig's turn at Perry is calmly brutal, recalling his role in Love Is The Devil: Study for a Portrait By Francis Bacon where he portrays Bacon's tormented subject/lover George. Here, he gives Perry the same debonair panache, not quite as sturdy as Jones' Capote but radiating a sensitive Genet style eroticism(How many other Bonds can you say that about?). And though a feeble and trite musical cue towards the film's end made my eyes roll rather than well up (the desired result, assuredly), I forgive its slight maudlin tendencies for its impeccable production design and impervious writing.

The only real stinker here is the casting of Sandra Bullock as Miss Nelle Harper Lee. Catherine Keener's depiction of Lee was about the only thing I wildly celebrated in the other Capote movie. Here, Bullock seems to figure if she slaps on an Alabammy accent, she's good as gold. It simply isn't so. Draining Lee of all her masculinities (which even Keener played down significantly), nary a black leather jacket (Lee's signature item) wears the actress. Instead, they make Bullock look dull as dishwater. But then, doesn't she always.


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