April can be a month where good films go to be alone. If it’s not a high profile movie taking advantage of the pre-summer blockbuster season, like Furious 7, then it can go unnoticed without enough marketing. Such is the case with True Story, a film I don’t think I even saw one TV trailer for, ever. I read the synopsis online and it sounded vaguely intriguing, and a little familiar. It’s familiarity comes from a story I recall in the news some years ago about an accused killer who took the name and identity of a journalist, then went on to use said journalist to tell his story.
And there’s the plot of True Story. New York Times journalist, Mike Finkel, fabricates some information in a story he’s writing. Obviously, the Times has to let him go. In the meantime, Christian Longo, is finally caught by the authorities near Cancun, Mexico, accused of killing his wife and children, while using Mike Finkel’s name and identity.
News of this comes to Finkel and he is curious. And seeing as he can’t find a job since being fired, he decides to look into this Christian Longo arrest. Why was he using Mike’s name? Is he guilty? So True Story follows Finkel’s investigation while also shows us his visitations with Longo in prison. Longo seems sincere, and implies he is innocent, but has conditions regarding talking to Finkel. They come to an agreement and evenrtally, Finkel decides Longo’s story is more than an article, it’s a book.
As their meetings and discussions go on, we’re drawn into Longo’s story, and his personality. But we’re always a little unsure about his reticence to tell his complete account until after his trial. How can we trust a guy that’s accused of murder? But at the same time, we see how Longo might be usure of Finkel as well. Finkel tells him about what happened at the Times, and why he got fired. They both have reasons for doubt. And Finkel clearly has much to prove as a journalist – this could be his redemption, or his career ender.
Jonah Hill plays journalist Finkel, and he is rather good. It’s a respectable dramatic turn here as he becomes entwined with Longo and you can feel his need to produce a writer’s win. And James Franco is great as the enigmatic Christian Longo, who makes you believe his innocence one minute, then does something to make you question it the next.
Now, anyone that really does remember this story in the news back in 2003 will already know the outcome, but I won’t spoil it for those that don’t remember, like I didn’t. It made for a decent little psychological drama that surprised me in these somewhat quiet weeks before the May explosion of summer blockbusters that are sure to consume us.
I’d give True Story a solid three and a half kittenhands. Not a big screen necessity, but surely worth a look.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, already salivating for next weeks Avengers: Age of Ultron!