An especially lamentable example of a good novel (in this case, Truman Capote’s first) adapted to the screen in such a way that its major significance appears to be the light it throws on the author’s life. Capote was in his early 20s when he wrote his third-person southern gothic about a 13-year-old boy sent to a remote plantation to live with his father, whom he’s never met. Director and cowriter David Rocksavage (best known for his British TV documentaries) makes the fatal errors of having an actor imitate Capote in middle age to narrate in the first person and of treating a highly unrealistic world in a realistic manner. The novel, by Capote’s own account, was written intuitively, and its autobiographical meanings were mainly unconscious. This 1994 feature, backing away from the novel’s politically incorrect and darkly ambivalent treatment of homosexuality, also reverses the book’s ending. Lothaire Bluteau does a fair job in the lead as the boy’s gay role model, and some of the South Carolina locations seem well chosen, but overall this is a mishmash of inauthentic accents, uncertain performances, and original material mangled beyond recognition. Cowritten by Sara Flanigan; with Anna Thomson, David Speck, April Turner, and Frank Taylor. (JR)
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