‘True Story’ Review: Jonah Hill & James Franco Reunite for Gripping Crime Drama

Fox Searchlight
Fox Searchlight

Based on the book of the same name written by Michael Finkel,True Story is a film about consequences, relationships, journalism and betrayal.

The film follows ex-New York Times reporter Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill) who is struggling to find a job after he twisted the truth in a cover story for the Times. One day Mike receives a call regarding one of the FBI’s Most Wanted, Christian Longo (James Franco), who was arrested claiming to be Michael Finkel.

Mike writes Christian and agrees to meet him. Chris is on trial for allegedly murdering his entire family. Almost everyone believes he is guilty, but after the meeting Mike has his doubts. During their meeting Chris promises Mike exclusivity of his story, but also makes Chris promise not to publish anything about him until after the trial. Chris also asks for Mike’s help on writing, given that he has been a fan of the journalist for years. With Mike desperate to get his career back and as a relationship develops between the two, the story gets convoluted and, messy especially as the trial begins.

First time feature film director and screenwriter Rupert Goold does well at telling the story, giving more from Michael’s point of view, leaving the viewer to guess what is really going on in Chris’ mind. Some of the dialogue doesn’t necessarily play over as well as it may have in the book, but we get the idea that this is a classic game of cat and mouse.

Watching James Franco and Seth Rogen on screen in these roles is entertaining, strange, and interesting all at the same time. These two actors, who are good friends in real life and are usually seen together in comedies (such as 2013’s This Is the End), do excellent work here as a man on trial for murder and the journalist investigating his story. It actually helps that these two know each other so well outside of the film’s world, that they can push each other’s buttons on screen. Franco is fantastic as Chris Longo, and it’s easily his best performance since 2013’s Spring Breakers. He has an innocent manner, yet dangerous undertone that makes for an ideal murder suspect. Hill leads the movie as our writer who is dying to get his career back but more so uncover the mystery of Chris’ story.

Felicity Jones is excellent and an essential character as Mike’s wife Jill. The director makes sure to give her ample screen time, but doesn’t give her much to do or a lot of dialogue. At first, I thought the English actress was wasted as just a throwaway supporting role until one scene that completely shocked me. In a scene between Jones and Franco, Jones completely manages to steal the spotlight, making it easily the best and most important scene in the entire film. She is absolutely outstanding.

Though some scenes are more interesting and effective than others, True Story makes for an interesting and entertaining film about a murder trial and the man who is trying to uncover the truth. Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Felicity Jones deliver strong performances that make for some of the more memorable of the year.

True Story originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past January and opens nationwide Friday, April 17, 2015.


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