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Philip Seymour Hoffman shines in 'Capote' biopic

The biggest problem filmmakers face in making biopics is what and what not to include. In "The Aviator" and "Nixon," Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone decided that focusing on their subjects' entire lives was not the way to go and instead presented just a chunk. Both movies were effective but far from complete. The same can be said for Bennett Miller's "Capote."

With the possible exception of Ernest Hemingway, no 20th-century novelist had a greater effect on the craft than Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman). It was with "In Cold Blood" that Capote created the nonfiction novel, something no one had ever successfully attempted before. While the facets of what happened to Capote preceding and following the six-year period in which he researched and wrote the book would make for a great story, Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman chose to leave them by the wayside. If you're looking for the definitive Capote, this isn't it.

The film opens in 1961 with Capote basking in the afterglow of "Breakfast at Tiffany's." The hugely popular novel was made into an even more popular film, and Capote was the hottest writer in the United States, if not the entire world. His follow-up project was going to be relatively lower-key: a magazine article for the New Yorker about the recent gruesome murder of a Kansas family.

With associate Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) at his side, Capote went to Kansas and quickly determined his subject to be of far greater significance than a magazine piece and set about writing the book. The trouble was, Capote needed a second and third act, something that wouldn't come for years. In a move every writer should stringently avoid, Capote became directly involved in both the investigation of the crime and subsequent trial. Just how and why is better left for the viewer to discover, but suffice it to say, it eventually led to Capote's professional and personal implosion.

As he has done in every role to date, Hoffman plays a flawed and deeply contradictory figure. In his effort to make his book as good as it could be, Capote stepped on and over a number of people and seemed oblivious to how he was coming off. A little at a time, Hoffman masterfully shows the effect this had on Truman's soul and how he eventually came to regret writing the book. It is without a doubt one of the strongest leading male performances of the year and an Oscar nomination for Hoffman is all but a lock.

There has been some negative banter on Internet blogs about how the filmmakers "glossed over" Capote's homosexuality, and in some ways, that is true. Capote's longtime companion, Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood), is included in only a handful of scenes, and the sexual aspect of their relationship is never addressed. We have no doubt that Capote was gay and going into detail about it in the context of this story would have added nothing. The movie is about the writing process and journalistic ethics, not an episode of "Queer as Folk." (Sony Pictures Classics)