Review: True Story
True Story is neither novel nor remarkable, but part of a genre so fascinating, so complex that it’s worth trying to explore over and over again in any medium.
Based on Michael Finkel’s book of the same name, this adaptation by Rupert Gold is compelling simply due to its two main lead performances. That is, once you accept they can in fact be serious actors when they want to be.
While they assumed exaggerated versions of themselves in This is the End, buddies and costars Jonah Hill and James Franco here show their range (and limitations), playing journalist and murderer respectively with blurred lines and strange connections.
Hill is Finkel, an aspiring New York Times writer who in a moment of poor judgment, fudged facts in order to make an important story more receptive to readers. His defense speaks of the need for people to understand the plight he’s writing about, and this is the best way to do it – kind of like how a movie dramatizes real life.
Finkel is flawed, and in his moment of banishment, isn’t painted as singularly culprit of victim. Seeking a second act in his suddenly floundered career, he takes to Montana with his girlfriend where a story of identity theft catches his eye. Christian Longo, arrested and charged with murder of his wife and three children, has for reasons unknown, passed himself off at Michael Finkel.
It’s an opportunity for redemption – not just for Finkel, but for Longo too. They soon meet in Longo’s cell in Oregon, and what begins is a complicated psychological relationship of trust and lies, deceit and opportunism. Hill and Franco had a natural chemistry, but it seems, intentionally or not, that they are playing the same amalgamation of a character. Both are soft-spoken, reserved; careful with gestures but intent on making strong eye contact. They both desperate, their names smeared, yet they are using one another in an attempt to seek salvation.
As they both play off each other – much of the film takes place a surprisingly televisual cell – neither particularly takes the lead. Revelations in the finale are realized in startling fashion, although that’s if you are unfamiliar with what took place across a couple years starting in 2011. It’s a story worth reading about and exploring, but not necessarily realized to its full potential in this film.
The exhaustion and unease you feel at the end is more to do with the uncomfortable story than anything else.