True Story, 2015.
Directed by Rupert Goold.
Starring James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones, and Ethan Suplee.
When disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel meets accused killer Christian Longo – who has taken on Finkel’s identity – his investigation morphs into a game of cat-and-mouse.
For better or worse True Story is a subversive thriller that is more interested on dragging out answers rather than giving explanations. The film is about a disgraced New York Times journalist that develops an unhealthy obsession with a convicted child murder, and whether or not he may be innocent. Once again, True Story doesn’t necessarily explore motives in-depth, so when you finally get the answer it doesn’t come across as satisfying, and ultimately that is the biggest problem with an otherwise completely gripping and riveting bizarre account of real-life. You are left wanting more, which is sometimes a good thing, but in this case it just feels as if the narrative doesn’t go far enough in telling a complete story.
Essentially, the results and ending to True Story will most likely frustrate viewers, leaving them questioning what the entire point was, but there’s no denying that James Franco and Jonah Hill dig into their characters and deliver some captivating performances. Portraying Christian Longo, Franco gives a calm and reclusive personality to this most wanted man that successfully gets audiences asking themselves if he could be innocent or not. When asked why he doesn’t just tell the truth, he cites that the truth is far too outrageous and that no one will believe him; a moment in the film that really conjures up a lot of intrigue.
Jonah Hill also gives a quite subdued performance playing New York Times journalist Michael Finkel, fired over creating a composite story to create sympathy for his character, and is now awkwardly searching for himself through Longo’s fascination with him. After the murders Longo began taking Michael’s identity, in essence setting these two on a collision course of mutual obsession.
It isn’t James Franco or Jonah Hill that are responsible for the best scene in the film however; that belongs to Felicity Jones and a powerfully disturbing scene where she shows no sympathy for Longo, and uses a musical example to demonstrate why he will always be considered a piece of garbage. Furthermore, it is scenes like this and the general eerie undertones of the darkly twisted story that make True Story so compelling to watch even if it goes nowhere.
In the middle of everything is also some interesting commentary on the state of journalism, and the sad truth that some wall write what their audience wants to hear instead of anything substantial that should be heard. Clearly movie journalism and real-world issues are totally lopsided in relevance, but the point stands that it is somewhat eye-opening even if it is only explored at a basic level.
The only other thing working against True Story is that it really doesn’t have any likable characters to root for. Michael Finkel could potentially be using Christian Longo and his story to save face as a journalist, giving himself a second chance. Meanwhile Longo is convicted of horrifying crimes and not necessarily someone you want to cheer for considering that there’s a likely possibility he did everything he is accused of. He also is obviously using Michael in his own way which isn’t very admirable. All of this leads to a film with characters that may leave you cold depending on if you find the mystery something worth investing into. Truthfully, it is interesting but once again just doesn’t offer enough to leave a lasting impression.
True Story is admittedly going to divide critics and audiences alike right down the middle, but your mileage depends on whether or not you can accept that the movie is more of a character study than a flat-out murder mystery complete with surprises. It’s about trying to understand the weird friendship that these two shamed people (obviously of different levels) come to have.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook