Other Voices, Other Rooms

on December 05, 1997 by Dale Winogura
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   In a sadly dull and uninspired filming of Truman Capote's semi-autobiographical 1948 book, "Other Voices, Other Rooms," writer/director David Rocksavage doesn't dramatize the material so much as pictorialize it. Even Charles Matthau's handling of Capote's "The Grass Harp," a boxoffice underperformer, had more honest character detail and emotional values than this.
   In 1938, a 13-year-old boy (David Speck) is sent to visit his bedridden father at a rotting Southern mansion. Instead of getting to know his estranged parent, he develops a relationship with the plantation's dotty mistress ("Angela's" Anna Thomson) and her effeminate, possibly gay cousin (Lothaire Bluteau). Except for some bizarre playacting and philosophical statements, not much of consequence occurs here.
   The main problem is that Capote's subjective, stream-of-consciousness style doesn't translate into visual language, and there's nothing substantial to replace it here. "The Grass Harp" had warm, colorful characters and situations, but "Other Voices, Other Rooms" is the cold, dark side of Capote's young writes of passage, realized on film without essential humanity or spiritual insight.
   A distant, even vacant quality to Speck's portrayal fails to express the character's growing awareness and perceptions. A similar flaw infects Bluteau's one-note performance, but at least he conveys the part's ambiguous sexuality with the grace and command that the film lacks. Worst of all, Thomson's shrill, exaggerated mannerisms turn her role into a vapid Blanche DuBois caricature.
   An artful use of color and composition aptly captures a faded glamour and moral decay to the play, but Rocksavage's pretentious direction mutes the lyrical ache and existential fear within. Not even the use of a Capote-like narrator (a good impression by Ben Kingdom) lends the film much poetic wonder or sensibility. The story's central concept, that of a young man confronting a mirror image of what he would become someday, has simply not been achieved.    Starring Lothaire Bluteau, Anna Thomson and David Speck. Directed by David Rocksavage. Written by Sara Flanigan and David Rocksavage. Produced by Peter Wentworth and David Rocksavage. An Artistic License release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 94 min.
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