FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: Tonight, I saw the movie “True Story” which stars Jonah Hill (Superbad, Moneyball), James Franco (Spider-Man , Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy), Maria Dizzia (Martha Marcy May Marlene, While We’re Young), Ethan Suplee (American History X, My Name is Earl [TV series]), and Robert John Burke (Limitless, 2 Guns). It is the film directorial debut of Rupert Goold (The Halloween Crown [TV mini-series], Great Performances [TV series]) who also co-wrote it with David Kajganich (The Invasion, Blood Creek). Based on a true story, it follows a journalist named Mike Finkel (Hill) who was at the top of his game until he lied to his editors at The New York Times about a recent story he penned down for a front cover issue. He was let go, and because of this slip-up, he hasn’t gotten any work. That is until Christian Longo (Franco) murdered his wife and three kids. Because Christian used Mike’s name during the investigation, Mike feels like it was his calling to write the scoop, for Christian wants to only talk about it to him. While conversing with him, however, Mike feels like he isn’t getting anywhere with the truth and will stop at nothing to get it, for his reputation is on the line.
So, the character of Christian Longo had a wife named Maryjane, also known as M.J. In the “Spider-Man” film franchise with Tobey Maguire, James Franco played Harry Osborne who had a love interest named Maryjane as well. Coincidence? I think not. I just thought that I should put that out there since it was one thing on my mind while watching this movie. But enough about that, let’s get down to what this movie is all about. I’ve never seen a trailer for this picture, so I was basically going in on a short summary, which isn’t a bad thing. Trailers tend to spoil plots at times, especially nowadays. The story of this film is quite a peculiar one. For most of the run time, I was kept in the dark as to how Longo’s family was murdered and if he ever committed the crime. Sometimes I would feel that I would have it all figured out, but then a shift in the plot would happen, thus forcing me back into the abyss of uncertainty. That’s what this movie was mostly about: lies. The title is “True Story,” but there wasn’t really anything true about it. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it can get rather frustrating. You have a convict who you are trying to piece together as to what he is, but all the while, they try to interject some sort of muddled story arc with Mike where he is dealing with what is essentially the truth. These conflicting character arcs can be the film’s strongpoint, but also its weakness. One example of a strongpoint is the conversations between Mike and Christian in the prison. It is all about mystery, and all the while I am trying to make connections in my mind while Mike tries to take as much information as he can out of Christian’s mouth. Christian is rather stubborn, however, for he only gives little bits here and there, and the scenes mainly end up with Mike and him arguing or having a writing lesson, for Longo wants to write a book of his dilemma. This draws me away from the actual conviction itself, which can be a problem because that is the pure essence of this storyline. The only explanation for these subplots is to build character development, but even that can’t stand on its own feet at times. Longo is a rubix cube and I want to know why he would commit these murders, but the whole focus on Mike can be rather incomprehensible. They bring up how Mike is trying to find himself in Longo, providing a theme or lesson, but to be honest, I didn’t see that at all. I didn’t think Mike was trying to find himself at all in Christian. They shared no similarities really. The only thing Mike sought for was a story, which can make his character a jerk, and confirm that there really isn’t a protagonist in this movie. That’s what I find to be the big con, not the fact that there is no protagonist, but the fact that Mike’s whole character theme doesn’t seem to come to fruition or get explained thoroughly. As for the acting itself, it can range from okay to very good. I will say that Jonah Hill outshined and he molded a great persona in the character of Mike. I thought he did well. As for James Franco, well that’s where it can become okay. I respect James Franco. I consider him to be a really good actor. He has a bunch of highlights in this movie, mainly the scene where he gives his testimony, but there are also lowlights. For one, the sighing. I can’t tell you how many times James Franco sighed before he gave a line. I think the man was making a hole in the ozone from all the carbon he was releasing after the many deep breaths he took. It helps to create a character personality, but when he does it so many times it can get annoying. Other times, he can be rather emotionless. It creates a sense of mystery for sure, but I was completely lost for his facial expressions didn’t give me much to work with. As for the rest of the performances, they were done well. One last con I have that I didn’t mention was the fact that no one seemed to change their clothes in this movie. I don’t know why, it was weird, but Jonah Hill looked like he wore the same button-up-shirt-sweater ensemble in every scene. It was like I was watching a cartoon where no one changes what they wear. I just wanted to point that out. What I really thought of this story as a whole was a mixed bag in which it leans to pretty good, but then can take a step back to okayness. The court cases and conversations between Christian and Mike can be engaging, but because that is the heart of the film, and even some of the conversations can become too stretched out, anything else is rather inconsistent. I can tell that they tried to make me feel something, and I did at times, mainly for the scenes that showed the murders (those were spine tingling), but when they have characters that don’t give a sense of truth and everything is lies, what can I really believe? Everything is a dead-end. The ending was rather flat as well. It was great to see the end result come in with facial expressions coming into play to explain what the truth is, but I felt like there should bebeen more. It wasn’t climatic. It was more like “oh, I see what he did there. That’s pretty cool….and now it’s over.” I didn’t take much from it, but it was an interesting watch nonetheless for it offers a mystery that will keep you entertained. If you ever come by this title and are wondering if its good, I would say to give it a shot. It isn’t awful, just okay. FINAL SCORE: 74%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: