Truman and Tennessee is an interesting & satisfying documentary that doesn’t quite delve into our subjects as much as you would want it to. Yet, you are invested to the piece thanks to some wonderful visual choices from director Lisa Immordino Vreeland.
Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams — writers, celebrities, geniuses — catapulted to fame in the 1950s, sparking a friendship and rivalry spanning nearly 40 years until their deaths within a year of each other. Inextricably entwined and fixtures of their age, they were creative powerhouses (and gay men) who dealt with success and its evanescence in vastly different ways.
With the use of archival footage from Capote and Williams interviews with Sir David Frost and Dick Cavett, we get to witness some absorbing moments as their interviewers try their best to glean some fascinating morsels of information from their subjects. With Frost, in particular, doing wonders (often forgotten how good an interviewer he was, seriously check out his old interviews if you can). Coupled with photographs and personal videos, we get the opportunity to see their private life and feel towards the difficulties that they have encountered throughout their lives. To help steady the ship, we have Zachary Quinto and Jim Parsons narrative letters or diary entries of our titular men.
Of the two, Quinto succeeds most at keeping to the tone of Williams with his voice. However, it was always going to be a difficult task for Parsons to relay Capote’s accent considering how unique both are, instead he tones his own down a tad to allow us to at least think it is someone else. Both do a commendable job in their voiceover work, and neither do enough to distract or put the viewer off the piece, which in truth is all you want in these types of roles.
Throughout Truman and Tennessee, we witness the vast amount of similarities that the two men had. Be it from their own backgrounds with their complicated relationships with their family to their frustrations with the adaptions of their work, with Capote remonstrating in letters about not having Marilyn Monroe cast in Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Williams annoyance at the endings of his films never remaining the same as they were written. As they venture towards life in their older lives, we see the pain they have, both struggling with their depression and addictions. While they try not to suggest that they are similar, with barbs back at one another throughout the years, the connection both men have remains, and to that point, when both near the end of their lives, they almost fondly reconnect.
While we are given these avenues into Capote and Williams lives and indeed a glimpse at their ever-evolving and changing friendship. Truman and Tennessee never delve quite deep enough, as if we are passing by and only mentioning the main bullet points of each man’s life and then sprinkling in some moments of when they mention one another. To this point, it makes the documentary a tremendous jumping-off point for those who are not all familiar with the duo or those who were interested in their dynamic. While there is a slight disappointment that it doesn’t take advantage of such a wonderful creative foundation that Vreeland has presented us with. But, it is still a very good look at these men’s lives, though another problem forms.
By focusing so much on each of the men’s journeys throughout their time on earth and comparing how similar and different they are, we lose what we are slightly sold upon, the relationship and now obvious posthumous relationship Capote and Tennessee had. We never learn as much as we would love to; as mentioned, we are given an engrossing piece here, and it never kicks on to be the insightful piece it dreams of being. By lacking that punch, it loses the riveting atmosphere it needs to have.
Still, you keep watching, for what we are given reels you in effortlessly that you only wish it had more time to go further; there is a mini-series in here without a doubt. But for now, this careful and very considerate piece is all we have, and it is a great showcase of the heart that both men put into their work that allows us to enjoy these 85 intriguing minutes.
Overall this is a successful piece that has you fully satisfied as we reach the end. Vreeland has enabled the audience to be absorbed into the story that she has weaved about these two great yet complicated men, leaving you keen to find some of their writings post haste.
Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation available on Dogwoof on Demand and other platforms now.
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