‘Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation’ Review: Friendship in Focus

Merging two biographies is a solid way to enliven the often-tedious genre of the literary documentary. But the connections drawn in “Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation” are sufficiently instructive that watching and listening to these writers is also, in a way, like hearing one author in stereo.

The director Lisa Immordino Vreeland uses the friendship between Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams to construct a dialogue between them, using the writing and appearances they left behind. Jim Parsons reads Capote’s words in voice-over and Zachary Quinto reads Williams’s. (There is a lengthy list of sources at the end; all credit to a documentary that shows its work.) For the visuals, Vreeland relies principally on archival material. Her most striking conceit is to show the writers in separate but parallel interviews with David Frost.

We hear the Southern-born authors on their writing habits, on how autobiography inflects their narratives, on their homosexuality and on substance abuse. They express disappointment with films adapted from their work: Williams felt the censorship was so heavy you often needed to see the stage version for comprehension. Capote says Paramount “double-crossed” him by casting Audrey Hepburn (whom he nevertheless praises) instead of Marilyn Monroe in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

There is some bite in stories of their rivalry. (Capote apparently stung Williams with his description of a Williams-like character in his unfinished novel “Answered Prayers.”) “An Intimate Conversation” never quite digs beyond the cultivated personas of either author — a drawback of the archival format. But for anyone invested in the writers, it offers a vivid sketch.

Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes. In theaters and in virtual cinemas through Kino Marquee.

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