Friday, October 07, 2005

Why I Want to Watch "Capote"

From Stephanie Zacharek's review of Capote. The movie stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote and Catherine Keener as Harper Lee.

"And Keener is a grounding presence in the movie, playing a woman who offered deep friendship to Capote but who was also appalled and dismayed at his callousness. At one point Capote reads her, over the phone, a painfully sincere entry from Smith's diary, playing it for laughs. Lee cuts him short, letting him know that he's crossed a line, a moment that Keener plays with stringent urgency: She can't bear her friend's lack of compassion, and she calls him on it. Keener even looks slightly different in this role: With her bobbed hair and scrubbed-fresh skin, she resembles a young Patricia Neal."

Odd, but across the various reviews I've read about the upcoming movie, Capote, it is this particular piece, and this particular paragraph that made me want to watch the movie.

Most reviews agree that the somewhat bland film is held up by the keen performance of its cast, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman's charismatic portrayal of Capote's gradual spiritual rot.

And the most startling twist - Catherine Keener representing the voice of human conscience in the film.

Catherine Keener sticks in my mind as the callous Maxine in Being John Malkovich. While I enjoyed its humour and creativity, I did not warm to Being John Malkovich. The film essentially is about a group of self-absorbed, self-serving people with little self-awareness. It is a film of callousness, with little redeeming warmth. And Maxine stands as the winning symbol of its pulseless heart.

To Catherine Keener's credit, she played the cool, manipulative Maxine very well. Maxine is something out of the femme fatale tradition of pulp noir. The kind of woman who serves as a catalyst for the masochistic impulses in very weak men (and women in the Lotte/Cameron Diaz's case). You think your fall, your gradual self-destruction was all about her, all for her. But really, it's all you. She merely provided you an excuse to debase yourself.

So I'll looking forward to Catherine Keener as Harper Lee. The Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, a little tome that still resonants as one of the emotional powerhouse of American literature today. I still love that book, for its honest and generous portrait of human decency and vunerability.

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