True Story Movie Review
Without looking, a film starring James Franco and Jonah Hill sounds like a surefire comedy hit. Hopefully, TRUE STORY doesn’t accidentally draw the wrong genre crowd, because they will be sorely disappointed. Who am I kidding, any genre crowd is going to be sorely disappointed with this anti-dramatic, low on mystery, drama mystery.
Based on the memoir of Michael Finkel, TRUE STORY follows the true story of ex-New York Times reporter, Michael Finkle, who was fired for not accurately depicting one of his lead stories, and his experience with accused murderer Christian Longo during his trial. Longo was accused of killing his wife and three kids and then took the alias of Finkel after fleeing the country. Visiting briefly in prison once a week, Finkel and Longo create a morbid friendship with unclear motives. Finkel eagerly wants to write a successful story but can’t tell if Longo is innocent or not. Longo just wants a friend and help to become a better writer himself.
The major problem with TRUE STORY is that it simply isn’t compelling. The innocent or guilt never seems to be much of a question and Finkel’s desire to get to the bottom of it is really of no interest from the viewer’s standpoint. Time is never fully measured as scenes just happen, jumping from the prison to Finkel’s home without much structure or reason. Much of the action consists of brief conversations and awkward close ups of the actors. The whole film lacks dynamic storytelling and energy. The question was never so much of what was going to happen but rather what was the movie going to try to make interesting. The answer? Nothing.
Director Rupert Goold relies on his actors to tell the emotional draw of the story. But when lacking an emotional draw within the story, there really isn’t much for the actors to draw from. Instead we get a lot of Hill looking at papers… with a pained look or Hill watching Longo testify… with a pained look. Franco plays his villain innocent enough but when it’s time for him to have an evil motive, he simply drops his Garfield eyes that appear half asleep. I’m not meaning to sound like I’m criticizing the actors. For the most part Franco and Hill do a decent enough job. It’s more about the lack of job for them to do decent work.
While known for their comedy, Franco and Hill are now solidly established dramatic actors with a few Oscar nominations under their belt to boot. Franco has an actor nom for 127 HOURS, while Hill has two supporting noms for MONEYBALL and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. Add recent Actress nominee, Felicity Jones, for THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, in a thankless role as Finkel’s wife, and TRUE STORY has quite the star-studded cast. Sadly, there just isn’t anything worth noting of value in this film to make it memorable or justifiable. This sentiment is all the more perplexing when movies like, ZODIAC or DEAD MAN WALKING, were far more effective before it.