True Story (2015 Sundance)

11 Feb

Longtime comedy duo James Franco and Jonah Hill bust out their dramatic skills in the Brad Pitt-produced True Story, a film about the grey areas between truth, journalism and fiction writing. Loosely based off the real-life events of American journalist Michael Finkel (played here by Jonah Hill), a New York Times reporter who comes accross the story of his life when confronted with Christian Longo (James Franco), a man accused of killing his wife and children and then using Michael’s identity while in custody. Michael, who is under his own charges of falsifying a recent story, becomes amused at why an alleged murderer would use his name, decides to investigate the story and ends up writing a book about the case in order to build credibility back to his journalistic name.

True Story documents Michael and Christian’s odd relationship as they get to know each other over a series of face-to-face interviews. What follows is a series of interactions that sets up a psychological game of cat-and-mouse for our two protagonists. While Michael strives to get to the Truth of what really happened, Christian is always one step ahead of the game, paying his own set of cards from inside his jail cell. Weather or not Christian actually killed his family or weather he was framed becomes the focal point of the film, and the main mystery which propels the drama forward. Felicity Jones plays Jill, Michael’s wife, and her involvement in the case, and in the life of Christian, intensifies as the film progresses.

What would be great material for someone like David Fincher or Roman Polanski to direct tragically falls short under the hands of director Rupert Goold. Mostly known for his theatre work, True Story is Goold’s first feature and it shows. The moments of possible tension in the story are tragically played down which all  adds up to a series of missed opportunities. The film is also much tamer that I would have guessed (I wouldn’t be surprised if it received a PG-13) and its tendency to play things safe and lean towards a minimalistic adaptation of a crime backfires.  The interactions and performances of Hill, Jones, and Franco however, are superb and True Story proves that the comedic duo can hold their own dramatically.

Bottom Line: Despite its missteps, True Story is definitely worth a watch as it greatly showcases Hill and Franco’s versatile talent.

Rating 6/10

Similar to: The Ghost Writer (2010), State of Play (2009), A Most Wanted Man (2014) 

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