The film is based on the memoir of Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill), a former writer for the New York Times who was found to have fabricated elements of a story to make it more compelling. He is exiled back home to Montana where he learns that an accused murderer named Christian Longo (James Franco) was using Finkel’s name while on the run in Mexico. Finkel learns that Longo is accused of murdering his wife and three children, and is compelled to meet the man who stole his identity. Finkel goes to visit Longo in prison and the two make an immediate connection. Instantly, Finkel begins dreaming about writing a bestseller about his new friend, while his wife (Felicity Jones) becomes more and more disconcerted with his new relationship. The rest of the film follows Longo as he goes to trial and Finkel tries to unravel the truth.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this—True Story is boring as hell. The story is just not that compelling. There’s never really any question whether Longo did the crime or not and even when he tries to present an alternative theory, it’s completely far-fetched. It would have been a much better film if one of Longo’s other theories actually panned out. Also, there’s no one to root for in this one. I mean, who do you choose? The fraud journalist or the guy accused of quadruple homicide? You can’t even root for Finkel’s wife, whose story arc makes no sense. I couldn’t tell if she was becoming obsessed with Longo too or not.
The performances are strangely subdued throughout. No one musters much emotion except Hill at the end when the verdict is delivered, but even then, he was only pissed because Longo had duped and used him. He can’t even take comfort in the fact that justice was done. I guess it’s fine, since this is “based on true events,” but it feels like all the actors are stranded by a script that generates zero drama. It’s just a flat, boring movie.
I was interested to see True Story because I wanted to see Franco and Hill in something different, but all I got was a warmed over version of the far superior Capote. Skip this one, unless you need a nap.