Infamous. Toby Jones, Daniel Craig, and Sandra Bullock
star in a film written and directed by Douglas McGrath.
Reviewed by D.J. Palladino
Déjà vu all over again, Infamous is
primarily odd because it’s the second film this year on one
hyper-specific topic, Truman Capote’s nonfiction novel In Cold
Blood. Of course, there have been other twin film releases:
Tombstone/Wyatt Earp and Dangerous Liaisons/Valmont among them.
Hollywood is an imitative art. Odder than the general twin-ness,
though, is how scene-for-scene alike they are. You begin to feel
lost, particularly if you long ago read Capote’s book and saw the
1967 film starring Robert Blake.
But the oddest thing about this film is Sandra Bullock’s triumph
in the role of Harper Lee, a performance that tops even Catherine
Keener’s incisive Capote interpretation. That’s right, goddammit, I
said Sandra Bullock, whose accent may suggest Forrest Gump
occasionally, but who holds forth here with dignity, righteousness,
and sad, perfect relevance. In fact, most of the acting is
exciting, from Toby Jones (whose last big job was Dobby in a Harry
Potter), to Sigourney Weaver, Hope Davis, and Isabella Rossellini
as Tru’s infamous “Swans,” the glory girls of the nascent
international Jet Set. Daniel Craig, whom I predict will be the
second best Bond for eternity, is dazzling and scary as killer
Perry Smith here.
Overall, Infamous is the better film. Though both versions
mislead slightly about Capote’s shiny, loathsome last years (he
ultimately betrayed his Swans), this film makes the bolder
indictment. It blasts the ugly duplicity lodged in the heart of a
“nonfiction novel,” and, by inference, in journalism. But a deeper
theme of self-delusion emerges in Infamous. Perry Smith while in
prison tells Capote how much he wanted to be an artist, failing in
music and painting. But now that he has murdered somebody, he says,
his life nudged art out of Capote’s pen. Jones’s scenes as Truman
(True Man) agonizing before a mirror are purgatorial trials.
But the senselessly murdered Clutter family had hopes, too. In
fact, as Smith relates poetically, the killer gave the son a pillow
to lay his head on before blowing him away.