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"Infamous"

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The Truman Capote in "Infamous" is much different from the one we saw in 2005's "Capote." For one thing, a lot of people mistakenly refer to him as "ma'am," not something you'd expect them to say to Philip Seymour Hoffman's haunted, somber invocation of the man.

Hoffman's Capote thought it was decadent to talk about his Bergdorf's scarf. In "Infamous," Toby Jones shows up at press conferences in rural Kansas wearing a long yellow leather coat with tufts of fur puffing out of the sleeves. When his companion Harper Lee announces at a Christmas dinner party that she brought a fruitcake, Toby's Capote pipes up: "And she doesn't mean me."

Douglas McGrath was already working on his version when Bennett Miller's "Capote" came out to high acclaim. There he was, too late, but without the desire to give up after putting so much work into the project. It's a good thing he carried on. The story is basically the same, but the Capote we get here is much more multidimensional. Hoffman's Capote is stoic, almost damaged before he even arrives in Kansas. Though Sandra Bullock's Harper Lee notes the "blue" at the center of Capote's flame, Toby's version is as effervescent as a bottle of fizzy water when he arrives. He runs up to the locals dying to know what thoughts they'd like to share on the "gruesome murders." "Sorry, ladies," one surprised local man responds to Capote and Lee, a typical reaction of the townspeople.

It may be impossible to say who the real Capote is. But one gets the sense this movie would like to leave it that way rather than try to cut the man from stone. In many scenes we see our elfin protagonist adjust his record of reality to make a better book. Often he tries out lines of quoted dialogue among different sets of friends, altering them each time until he gets the desired reaction. The steadfast Oscar winner is nowhere to be found. This man is sly and witty, but also dodgy and even cowardly. Except for the gift with the pen, he's just like you and me. (R) *****— Wayne Melton

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