Directed by Rupert Goold, True Story is based on the book True Story by New York Times reporter Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill). Our story starts with esteemed reporter Michael Finkel having his reputation destroyed when it comes to light he has blurred the lines of truth in a New York Times Magazine cover story about slave trading. With a damaged reputation he is effectively left in journalistic no mans land.
In the midst of Finkel’s good name being stripped from him, we meet Christian Longo (James Franco), who has assumed Finkel’s identity while in hiding in Mexico. Longo is accused of murdering his wife and children and his subsequent arrest catapults Finkel’s name back into the limelight once again.
Intrigued by Longo’s use of his name and the potential opportunity to redeem himself in journalistic circles, Finkel writes to him in prison to request a meeting. What follows is the story of how the two characters met and cultivated a relationship through their meetings at the prison where Longo is held and via a series of revealing letters which Longo sent to Finkel.
James Franco’s portrayal of Christian Longo is unsettlingly well delivered. On screen he exhibits a charming, articulate and sometimes vulnerable persona of the suspected murderer. You will need to watch closely to fully appreciate the subtle character traits and how they develop and reveal themselves as the two get to know each other. Longo is manipulatively charming and coldly calculating as he toys with the story he has invited Finkel to take part in.
Seth Rogan, for me, is less successful in his endeavour to inhibit the character of Michael Finkel. For a world renowned reporter to fall from such dizzying heights of success; there was surely a need to demonstrate his devastation more acutely on camera. While it may be evident in the book, it’s not so much in the movie. His reflection on the situation he finds himself in was brushed over in a series of scenes where potential employers cut his phone calls short. His hunger to right the wrongs of his past by meticulously documenting and assessing his proceedings with Longo are thwarted by his personal relationship with him. He wants to believe his innocence but he is fascinated and fooled by him at the same time.
True Story moves at a slow pace and often I found my mind wandering away from proceedings. While the story is interesting, and no doubt more gripping in the book (I haven’t read it) the true heinousness of Longo’s crimes are not highlighted strongly enough to make this a more jarring movie. I’m giving this 2.5 out of 5 . Check out the trailer below.