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TRUE STORY (review)

true_storyTRUE STORY

Written and Directed by Rupert Goold / Starring Jonah Hill, James Franco and Felicity Jones

Christian Longo: Sometimes the truth isn’t believable. It doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Considering the story that Rupert Goold’s narrative debut, TRUE STORY, is actually based on a true one, it is a bit surprising how disingenuous it feels. In Oregon in December 2001, Christian Longo’s family, including his wife and three young children, were all found dead in a waterway off the Pacific Ocean. Longo himself had already fled the country to Cancun, Mexico, where he was using a false name, Michael Finkel. Just before Longo’s arrest, the real Michael Finkel, a celebrated journalist for the New York Times, was let go for distorting the truth to better shape a story he had written for them. When Finkel learned Longo was using his name, he sought him out in search of the truth, or whatever that means. While this real life premise should have made for a rather fascinating meeting of the minds on film, one that could possibly try to get at the real truth behind this story, instead it all falls flat, ultimately feeling forced and false.

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Apparently, Longo was a big fan of Finkel’s work, which is why he assumed his name. Before he murdered his entire family, he actually wanted to be a writer himself. Naturally, this speaks directly to Finkel’s ego and he sees Longo as a way to vindicate himself in the public’s eyes by telling Longo’s story. Anyone can see that this relationship could easily provide a great deal of interwoven layers, all of which could force the viewer to question exactly what the real truth is and who is telling it. Instead, Goold’s script merely hints at these possibilities but never goes any further along those paths. Either Goold didn’t fully understand the depth he was trying to communicate or he just didn’t know how to properly communicate it to the viewer. His screenplay is only further hindered by his drab direction. This courtroom drama is about as visually dynamic as court TV.

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While it seems only fair to blame the source material for this film’s failings, the casting does not help at all. Both James Franco, who plays Longo, and Jonah Hill, who plays Finkel, have proven that they are more than capable of handling dramatic parts – both are Academy Award nominees after all – neither seems to know where to put themselves here. In fact, I half expected them to start cracking up at any minute about how preposterous it was that they were actually sitting across from each other in this movie. Neither of them seemed to comprehend the complexity of their roles, again likely Goold’s fault, so they mostly just stare blankly at each other with stupefied looks on their faces (see photos here) in hopes that we read some sort of depth into their stares. Meanwhile, poor Felicity Jones, fresh off her Oscar nominated turn in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, wastes her time completely as Hill’s unlikely girlfriend. In the end, I spent my time watching TRUE STORY trying to figure out whether anyone really knew what story they were trying to tell. My conclusion? The truth is still out there.

2 sheep

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4 (80%) 6 votes

 

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