REVIEW: True Story

21 04 2015

True StoryRupert Goold’s “True Story” begins with two men claiming to be Mike Finkel suffering from a painful, embarrassing exposure.  The first is Jonah Hill’s Mike Finkel – the man born with the name – losing his job at The New York Times after his editors uncover some dishonest reporting practices.  The second is James Franco’s Christian Longo – the man adopting the name Mike Finkel – getting arrested for the murder of his family.

Goold sets up the two men as doubles, practically dopplegangers, for each other.  This connection that extends beyond just a nominal level makes “True Story” quite a compelling story to observe unfold.  Finkel visits Longo frequently in prison and provides him with writing lessons in order to get the exclusive testimony from the accused killer.

The fascination quickly wears thin, however.  Goold utilizes hardly any variation to recurring scenes such as the interrogation scenes between the two leads.  He shoots Hill and Franco in tight close-ups and alternates between them in a predictable edit.  The performances of the duo are so sullenly subdued (which is admittedly somewhat admirable) that the unimaginative approach becomes rather monotonous.

Furthermore, “True Story” almost completely drops the line of thought about Finkel and Longo mirroring each other in the second half when the long-awaited trial of the latter finally begins.  At this point, the film veers into standard courtroom drama territory, a disappointing turn for a film that began with an intriguing cat-and-mouse thriller angle.  Since nothing too bizarre ever occurs between them, the torpid acting style never really pays off.

As a sidebar, “True Story” also features Felicity Jones in a shamefully underdeveloped role.  The film casts her as Finkel’s wife, one that is precisely the kind of conventional, passive spouse that Jones so brilliantly eschewed in “The Theory of Everything.”  Hopefully her new prefix of “Academy Award Nominee” will allow her to avoid such thankless parts in the future.  B-2stars



One response

22 04 2015
Paul S

I agree with so much of your review — especially the performances, and the complete waste of Felicity Jones.
True Story isn’t a complete loss as there are some worthy aspects, but it has several flaws that weigh down the overall quality.

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