Saturday, February 04, 2006

Now Playing

Yesterday I read the newspaper and I had to pinch myself - Capote was playing at our local multi-plex.

I had hoped to see this film on the big screen but feared that it would not play in our city. Any film that is considered "artsy" or is not a so-called blockbuster seems to by-pass Saint John or if it does arrive it is like a restless visitor than cannot stay in one place very long.

Capote has been embraced by the critics and has received five nods from the Oscar crowd including best actor and best picture. These are not the reasons I am interested in the movie. I have been patiently waiting to see this film since first reading about it and the reason can be summed up in three words - Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I have been a big fan of Hoffman for quite some time and it is very nice to see him in a starring role. For many years he has been a character actor that people know to see but cannot put a name to the face. In fact, it has only been lately, that I, a big fan, has been able to keep his name straight.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is not your typical movie star. He is average height, his weight fluctuates between slightly husky to overweight, his skin is pale and sometimes looks slightly sunburned, he has a receeding hair line, and he is painfully shy off camera. In other words, he could be your neighbour. Hoffman is an average guy working in a world where most people have to be above average to succeed. This explains why it took so long for Hoffman to be in a starring role. What Hoffman has that the "pretty boys" lack is pure talent. No matter how small the role, Hoffman always shines.

Hoffman has been in over forty films and has been nominated twice for a Tony for his roles in Broadway plays. He is always working and has not been out of work as an actor since his first acting job in the 1992 film, Scent of a Woman. Since that time he has had supporting roles in movies such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Almost Famous, and Magnolia. Along with these well known films, Hoffman took on roles in smaller films that showcased his immense talent.

It was while watching one of his lesser known films that I came to realize that Hoffman was no regular character actor. The film was Flawless and starred Robert DeNiro as retired hero cop Walt Koontz and Hoffman as Rusty Zimmerman, his cross-dressing neighbor - talk about two opposites. What makes this movie interesting is the viewer soon learns that these men are opposites on the outside but very similar inside as they are both very lonely human beings outside the mainstream of society.

Hoffman's portrayal of Rusty is superb. He is at times rude and crude, at times sassy and brash, and at times full of angst and pain. One of my favorite lines in the film is delivered by Rusty (Hoffman) - "Oh yeah? Well life's a bitch, so I became one, honey!" Wouldn't this be a great line to use one someone?

Hoffman could have very easily played Rusty in sterotypical fashion of flambouyant queen but chooses to wear the mask of a clown hiding tears instead. It is too bad this film had so many things going on at once as it is truly a film that could have remained focused on the relationship between Rusty and Walt and been a superb character driven movie instead of a jumble of different film genres. This being said, anyone who appreciates a could emotional performance should check out Flawless and see Hoffman and DeNiro play these characters to perfection.

Speaking of perfection, Hoffman has pulled it off once again in his portrayal of Truman Capote. Hoffman does not go for flambouyance when he plays the larger-than-life Capote, instead he plays him with seductive restraint. As viewers we only see Capote's character in shades of gray, there is nothing black and white about this fellow. He is crafty, manipulative, uncompromising, sensitive and brutal. A strong love-hate relationship soon develops toward this character. There are times you want to give him a hug and other times you want to give his pompous ass a swift kick. This is the range that Hoffman brings to this role.

If you are looking for an action packed movie that sensationalizes the 1959 murder of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas then do not go to this movie. On the other hand, if you are looking for a movie that takes you through the emotional journey that Capote took while researching and writing his best selling novel, In Cold Blood, then by all means go to this movie. Finally, if you are looking for a movie with great acting then Capote is for you.

I would like to close this post with a quote from Philip Seymour Hoffman on his responsibility as an actor, a responsibility that I feel he has fulfilled:

Actors are responsible to the people we play. I don't label or judge. I just play them as honestly and expressively and creatively as I can, in the hope that people who ordinarily turn their heads in disgust instead think, 'What I thought I'd feel about that guy, I don't totally feel right now'

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?