True Story should be an intriguing and thought-provoking watch, but instead is one that is too clever for its own good – trying to be too elaborate when the storyline should be enough to captivate its audience.
The film is based on the memoirs of journalist Mike Finkel, who has recently been fired from the New York Times after making false claims in his latest investigative article.
Whilst in the process of finding new work, Finkel (Jonah Hill) is informed that Christian Longo (James Franco) has been using the journalist’s name whilst on the run in Mexico after being accused of murdering his family.
Intrigued as to why, Finkel meets with Longo who is a huge fan of the journalists’ work and the pair agrees for Longo’s “true” story to be written. In return, Finkel teaches Longo how to become a better writer.
The story behind these two characters is interesting, being depicted by two well-established actors – but British director Rupert Goold (making his feature debut) delivers a tame and lacklustre demonstration of their account.
The aim of the film is to keep the audience second-guessing as to whether Longo is guilty of the accusations against him and what his intentions with Finkel are. Without knowing the facts beforehand, it’s still relatively obvious where the movie is heading and as a result, the excitement of the cat and mouse effect is lost.
Hill and Franco in their roles are fine, without ever really being allowed to truly express their best qualities. The latter tries his best to portray the damaged and eerie Longo but the cold eyes, monotone dialect and loud swallowing is all too excessive.
Felicity Jones stars as Finkel’s doubtful girlfriend and her scene with Franco is the highlight of the wasted role she performs in the movie. Sitting in the visitor’s cell alongside the accused murderer, she completely owns the room as well as the film – her only poignant contribution to the production. This being one of the more fascinating scenes in True Story is a demonstration of how flat the film is.
True Story feels like a constant source of wasted potential given its storyline and cast. As a debut feature for former theatre director Goold, it’s by no means a disaster, but taking on a tale of this magnitude and attempting too much with it has just left a confusing and bland result.