True Story about a True Story

James Franco as accused killer Christian Longo
James Franco as accused killer Christian Longo

Rated R

1 hour 40 minutes
Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones
Writers: Michael Finkel (memoir,) Ruper Goold

Jonah Hill as former New York Times reporter Michael Finkel
Jonah Hill as former New York Times reporter Michael Finkel

“True Story” is a film based on just that. The true story of former New York Times reporter Michael Finkel. He was fired in 2002 for bending the truth in a story he wrote on child slavery in African. Instead of telling the story of all five slaves he interviewed, he melded their experiences, creating one slave from the five stories. When the truth was revealed Finkel was fired.

No other papers, no other magazines would hire him. Then the really bizarre happened. Christian Longo – an Oregon father accused of killing his wife and three kids – fled to Mexico using Michael Finkel’s identity. When Finkel finds out he meets with the accused killer and an awkward friendship develops. Finkel sees it as the story of a lifetime and an opportunity to get back into journalism. Christian Longo sees it as an opportunity to get someone to tell his side of the story, someone who already knows how to bend the truth. Is it a relationship full of lies or a chance at a fresh start? Either way is doesn’t set well with Jill Barker, Finkel’s girlfriend.

James Franco plays accused killer Christian Longo. Jonah Hill plays journalist Michael Finkel – it’s a third time the two have worked together. First in Knocked Up and again in This is the End. Both much lighter fare than a drama, mystery, thriller. Felicity Jones plays Jill Barker and while her character comes off as quiet and calm, she’s clearly the strongest person of the three, both the character and the actress. It felt like Franco was working a little too hard to convince the audience that he was a killer. Jonah Hill’s best acting came in the courtroom scenes toward the end of film. Quite powerful really. Jones created a character from very few lines but those she had were convincing, compelling and totally believable.
“True Story” is only part of the true story. Christian Longo is still in prison and still communicating with Michael Finkel. To this day Longo calls Finkel on the first Sunday of every month. And Finkel apparently always takes his call. He told a New York Times reporter recently that he “was way too emotionally involved in this story, and I want to see it play through.” “Despite the fact he’s a sociopath and a quadruple murderer, Long is also insanely perception and eloquent, and his descriptive abilities are amazing. So yes, I pick up the phone. I’m a journalist.”
I like films based on truth. And I really like this one because it’s about a real journalist, smart, high-ranking and competitive. No matter how hard a reporter tries, they are human. All of us learn, absorb and tell stories based on our personal filter – how we were raised, what motivates us, our personality traits, our personal experiences. There isn’t any writer who can 100-percent of the time be completely neutral, non-judgmental, emotionless. We all see life differently, we all make mistakes and sometimes get caught.

Arruga! – 0
Fidget Factor – 0
Age Range – 16 and up
Overall Grade – B +

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