The true story of disgraced journalist Michael Finkel, who developed
a connection to accused killer Christian Longo after he was arrested.
True Story (2015)
Directed by Rupert Goold
Written by Rupert Goold and David Kajganich
Starring Jonah Hill, James Franco, Felicity Jones,
Ethan Suplee, Robert John Burke, Maria Dizzia, Byron Jennings
Based on the book by Michael Finkel
True Story is a film that is entertaining but never actually goes anywhere worthwhile. While I found myself enjoying the story and wondering whether or not Christian Longo actually murdered his entire family, I must confess that by the film's end, nothing felt resolved and everybody lost. Regardless, the bizarre story of how journalist Michael Finkel losing his job led to the craziest story of his career is an oddball. Maybe it just wasn't an odd enough ball to make a movie out of.
As far as performances go, both Jonah Hill and James Franco are in top form. Hill plays Finkel, a renowned reporter for The New York Times who is fired after he lies in his latest piece. After returning home to Montana in disgrace, Finkel learns about a killer named Christian Longo (Franco) who was arrested in Mexico after claiming to be Finkel himself. When Finkel goes to meet him in jail, he realizes that faking his identity was just Longo's ploy to get to meet a writer that he respects. Thus begins the back-and-forth between Hill and Franco that pretty much makes the film work by itself while avoiding the elephant in the room that is the lack of a real story. At first, you're pretty sure he did it, but then you're not, but then you are again. It's pretty straightforward and not handled very well as a plot twist.
With all the emphasis on the film and book being absolutely true, I've no doubt in my mind that Finkel wrote the book entirely to try to restore his sullied reputation, despite the film's end making it seem like Finkel learned something about himself during this whole endeavor. I think that he was willing to do anything to be a journalist again, even if it meant publishing a book that told a story everybody already watched unfold on television nationwide and no longer cared about. Making a movie was just icing on the cake, since I also learned nothing new about the case and I'd never even heard of it until I watched True Story. In the end, it's kind of a pointless movie and only worth watching for the performances.