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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

True Story | James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones | Review

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4sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD Judy Thorburn

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3lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE

 

True Story

We live in a time, where on a daily basis, we are bombarded with lies everywhere we turn, from TV, radio and print ads, politicians, and anyone who figures it is easier to lie than to tell the truth in order to benefit their cause or personal gain.

Lies, deceit and manipulation are key elements in 'True Story', a psychological crime drama starring Jonah Hill and James Franco, based on Michael Finkel's memoir of the same name.

'True Story' centers on journalist Michael Finkel, and Christian Longo, a man accused of multiple homicides.  Both are real life people and very different liars that are brought together in a prison setting while Longo awaits his trial.

In 2001, Finkel  (Hill) an acclaimed journalist for the New York Times that was fired from his job after it was revealed that he created a composite character for a Sunday cover story titled “Is This Boy A Slave” about young men that were beaten while working at African plantations. Disgraced and forced to return home to his supportive wife, Jill (Felicity Jones) in Montana, Finkel finds that he is repeatedly turned down for work he pitches to other publications, and is devastated that that his career seems destroyed by one well intentioned fabrication.

When Finkel gets a call from a journalist for the Oregonian to let him know that a man accused of the heinous murder of his wife and three children has been apprehended in Mexico where he identified himself as Michael Finkel, the downtrodden reporter is intrigued and filled with curiosity.

In response, Finkel writes a letter to Longo (Franco) in jail, asking to meet with the accused murderer, stating, “At the same time you were using my name, I was stripped of it. Maybe you could tell me what it’s like to be me.”

During their initial meeting, Finkel gets his ego boosted when Longo says he is a big fan of the reporter's work and claims “When I was being you, I was the happiest in a long time.”

As visits with Longo continue, Finkel sees a chance to pitch a major book deal with Harper Collins, and comes to an agreement with Longo that in exchange for teaching him how to write, Longo will send Finkel his writings with information about the murders.

What follows is a tale of an unusual friendship filled with mystery and intrigue.  While it appears that both men are using the other for his own advantage, it soon becomes apparent that the narcissistic, dangerous Longo has assumed the upper hand by cleverly and intentionally manipulating and deceiving the journalist.

Finkel's wife Jill, on the other hand, had Longo pegged. In this underdeveloped role, Jones, (an Oscar nominee for best actress in last year's The Theory of Everything), has one strong scene that takes place during her visit with Longo in jail before his trial. Infuriated by what he is doing to her husband, she verbally rips into Longo, clearly stating that she knows he is pathological liar.

Director Rupert Goold who cowrote the script with screenwriter David Kajganich, delivers a fascinating and gripping film marked by terrific performances by the two lead actors.

The charismatic, Franco is chilling as the maniacal Longo, and although Hill might appear to be miscast, he is convincing as the shamed reporter who is eager to redeem himself and advance his career.  It is great to see both actors, buddies in real life, once again break away from their usual comedic portrayals and take on serious roles like Hill did in “Moneyball” and “Wolf of Wall Street”, and Franco whose powerful, standout work was the only noteworthy element in the less than impressive, “Spring Breakers”.

'True Story' is a thought provoking film that poses several questions.  For one, do all liars share a common bond.  Is a lie worth telling, if the ends justify the means, regardless of the implications. These questions are explored from two points of view, a monster in a human suit, and a journalist, who was so wrapped in telling a good story that he lost his obligation to the truth.

Moreover, the real horror movies are ones like this that depict smart and cunning human monsters who, in reality, live, breathe and walk among us.  Truth be told, that is the scariest part of this 'True Story'.

 

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