True Story review

Though it doesn’t say it at the beginning, True Story is indeed a true story. It’s the story of Mike Finkel, a New York Times reporter who is oddly drawn into the world of Christian Longo, an Oregon man accused of killing his wife and three children. Playing against their usual types, Jonah Hill plays Finkel and James Franco plays Longo in first time feature director Rupert Gould’s crime mystery that is mostly good, but falls short of its full potential. Read more of our True Story review below.

The first several minutes of True Story are basically flawless. We get some hints of the larger story and meet Finkel, then Longo. Then Longo introduces himself to someone as Finkel. Why is this mysterious man posing as a New York Times reporter? That question, and several others, are all posed before the title. It’s a strong start, which is almost the polar opposite of the ending. But we’ll get to that.

Finkel and Longo meet because both their lives have reached a crossroads. One loses his job, the other is in jail. It’s there that their tenuous, odd relationship begins to develop. Finkel wants a scoop, Longo wants to tell his story, and the movie keeps us interested because those motivations simply can’t tell the whole story, right?

They don’t, and in those grey areas both Hill and Franco find some top-notch performances. Neither actor has a joke in the whole movie. Each is serious, somehow broken, very much confused and not-quite-comfortable with the odd, almost unbelieveable situation. The fact the actors have an established chemistry from other movies definitely helps that situation develop, especially in the many scenes featuring the two just sitting in a room and talking.

The mystery of what happened to Longo’s family is the driving force in the movie, and the B story of Finkel’s construction of the story only adds more intrigue. Felicity Jones plays Finkel’s girlfriend but her role is incredibly out of place, even though Gould continues trying to develop it throughout the film. It’s the first sign that while True Story started well, things might not end the same way.

Without spoiling it, True Story never quite lands on a cohesive ending. A rewarding, twisted resolution is heavily suggested, but Gould leaves things around it a bit too ambiguous. We’re left wondering not what the characters intended, but what the filmmaker himself intended with his choices. That’s not how you want to walk out of a movie.

Nevertheless, True Story is a very interesting film that provides a nice study of two characters, wrapped around a murder mystery with an under current in the news media. It has its flaws, but it’s worth your time.

/Film rating: 7 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.