When you hear the names Jonah Hill and James Franco together on the bill, you know that this film will go one of two ways – raunchy comedy or intense drama.
True Story takes the latter – following recently unemployed journalist Mike Finkel, whose life is changed dramatically after wife and child murderer Christian Longo assumes his identity to evade arrest.
The first point I want to make about this film, is that the title is terrible. Nothing about this title makes me want to watch this film, however is named so because the film is based on true events, and the book that the real Mike Finkel writes about his time with Longo is titled True Story. A fair point, but it still doesn’t draw me in from a first glance.
The film is slow in parts, and in certain scenes that include a lot of talking back and forward in two shot for extended periods of time make the film feel a bit faltered. These scenes of talking are beautifully rich in detail, the information given being of crucial importance to understanding these characters and their motivations, however a more inventive shot or editing style may have lifted the moments that drop audience attention.
The acting chemistry between Franco and Hill is great. Maybe because they have a personal relationship outside of work, or maybe just because they’re professionals, but the believability of this film comes from the connection that is established between two men, leading completely different lives, that find themselves ridiculed for their actions, their lives taking completely separate courses to the ones they imagined for themselves.
The films colour scale is very white and blue, which accentuates the bleakness and sadness of the Longo Case, but also casts a parallel between the present and the events that caused Longo to become incarcerated – the killing and drowning of his family members.
The films’ use of flashback is one of the film’s greatest merits. A wonderful technique, when dealing with unreliable narration, to show the audience what Finkel believes happened, as this is what Longo tells him. However the flashbacks are shot in quick bursts of montage, water, suitcase, hair, bodies in water, a car, all images that make limited sense on their own or as a part of the montage – because the pieces don’t fit the way that Longo says they do. This technique is great in the way that it tells us nothing – shot beautifully with no answers to any of our, or Finkel’s, questions, but further accentuate longo’s unreliability and the murkiness of what actually happened to the victims.
At the end of the film, the audience is left unsatisfied – as there is no real justice served or end to the story. This is for the best, however, as the characters depicted in the film are both still alive, their story is not over. And because of this, the lack of closure actually helps the film to stay true to its’ source material, unlike Mike Finkel who does not stay true to his through his journalism.