Thursday, April 23, 2015

Movie Review #248: "True Story" (2015)

Movie"True Story"
Ticket Price: $12.50
Director: Rupert Goold
Rating: R
Running Time 1 hour, 39 minutes
Image Source
Disgraced former New York Times reporter Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) finds out that accused murderer Christian Longo (James Franco) has been using his name as an alias. Michael contacts Chris and does a series of interviews to try and understand the inner workings of Chris's mind, and to determine for himself if he really did kill his family or not. 

The aptly named film "True Story" is a true story based on a book called "True Story" that covers the true interviews between author Michael Finkel and accused murderer Christian Longo. BigJ and I knew nothing of Christian Longo, his crimes, Michael Finkel, or the book Mike wrote about this case before seeing this movie. Heck, we didn't even know much about the movie before we watched it other than the basics: it stars Jonah Hill and James Franco, and despite its limited release, it actually had a showing at our local theater, surprisingly enough. We think it really helped us going into the film not knowing all the details of the accusations and the crimes involved in the story, because if you know the facts, it sort of spoils it for you a little. We could can totally see how knowing the outcome of this too weird not to be true story might lose some of its appeal, but the performances are intriguing to watch and the murder of Longo's entire family snowballs from an opened and shut case to something much more. Watching the movie, it was all fresh and new to us and kept us fully intrigued and fascinated in the story along the way.

Taking a big step away from his normal comedic roles, but not something we haven't seen him do in the past, Jonah Hill plays reporter Michael Finkel and we think he does it quite well in this role. In fact, Hill has turned out to be a very versatile actor and has been able to transition from comedy to drama quite seamlessly. He plays an intricate role as his character struggles with whether or not to believe Chris and his seemingly bizarre story. Finkel also has to grapple with the morality of telling Longo's story, especially since there is to be a trial where Longo's wife's family will be. This is a character piece and the success or failure of the film relies heavily on Jonah's performance, which we personally believe he nails, regardless of the fudging of the details of the actual events. Hill's usual partner in comedic crime, James Franco, has always seemed at home in dramatic parts and this film is no exception. We don't know if it's a compliment to say he fits the role of a man who is obviously a sociopath and is accused of murdering his wife and children, but he does portray Christian Longo both convincingly and well, perhaps a little too well. He has this cold calm about him and seems completely oblivious or indifferent to the gravity of the crimes of which he is accused. Then, with the drop of a hat, he can become this winking, snide, coyly smiling man who clearly knows what he has done and has little or no remorse for it, as if he is Dr. Jekyl one minutes and Mr. Hyde then next. Hill and Franco, both being real life friends and having acted together in the past, play off of each other's strengths and have a good rapport while on screen together. It is important to remember that both of these fellows are Oscar nominated actors, so it makes sense why they both transition well from one genre to the next with relative ease. The only other person to have a remotely substantial role is Felicity Jones who plays Michael's girlfriend Jill Barker, and is also an Oscar nominated actress. Her performance, like many of the others in this film, is an exercise in subtlety. It's all about getting the audience to understand her feelings about Mike's new undertaking with Chris, and through looks and glances, Jones is able to let the audience know how she feels, there's no bones about that. She does have one really impactful scene where she confronts Chris in jail, but apart from that, she doesn't have very many scenes by herself. Together, these three fine actors put on excellent performances in a captivating movie. While it does take a while to get to the ultimate conclusion involving this case and while most of the movie consists of jailhouse interviews between Finkel and Longo, we were still
enthralled with this movie and don't really know or understand why other critics have been so hard on it. It's an entertaining story with top-notch actors in the prime of their careers doing something different for a change, and we enjoyed it thoroughly.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 47%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Sabotage"

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