[Movie Review] True Story (2015)

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USA | Mystery, Crime, Drama | R | Director: Rupert Goold | Writers: David Kajganich, Rupert Goold | Cast: Jonah Hill, James Franco, Felicity Jones, Maria Dizzia, Ethan Suplee | English, Italian | 100 minutes


A murderer and a journalist. These two subjects sound very intriguing, don’t they? Adopted from the book entitled 'The Journalist and the Murder', Rupert Goold’s debut film ‘True Story’ reveals a story about two characters with serious credibility issues. Albeit the serious drama with such a structured screenplay holding true to its psychological core, you can never really tell where you’re at while you’re watching it, and even what you’re supposed to feel, as the filmmakers themselves still don’t have a take on it. This makes it most definitely ostentatiously lousy towards the end and its questionable core of competence: A murder mystery? An intro to journalism? What?

In the opening of a movie, we see brutal images of victims of murder. Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill), a distinguished journalist for The New York Times Magazine, had his reputation and career derailed after tweaking some facts while gathering information to report a story about child slavery in Africa. After being found out, this soon led his career in the company non-existent. He began trying to climb his career back up and found nothing pretty, except the one fact he found interesting at that time - a man called Christian Longo (James Franco) who assumed his identity as a way to elude FBI capture of the accusation of murdering his wife and his three children in Mexico.

As Longo upholds his stance of pleading not guilty at trial, Finkel thought that it would be a safe bet to confront the man himself, believing that if he can comprehend why Longo stole his identity, then he can possibly understand himself too, why he tweaked the facts. Finkel requested to interview, and during the first visit, Longo turned out to say that he was a fervent admirer of his. Intrigued, Finkel subsequently foresees a golden opportunity and paid a visit quite a few times until they soon entered into an agreement that if Finkel would teach Longo how to write, he would relay his stories exclusively to him. Thinking that he would milk cash out of a book exhibiting his life, they sealed the trade deal.

The film touched into the psychological area when Finkel got very wrapped up in getting to know Longo in real life and unconsciously becoming the victim of the constant mind games – not knowing what the truth really is. What he ever did is try to penetrate into Longo’s minds, which made him very sympathetic that didn’t have the guts to deny or justify his actions. Fortunately, Finkel’s girlfriend (Felicity Jones) was there to represent our aversion towards the act. She tried to grasp him back to the ground after having a siege of uneasiness from this oddball friendship based on an expedient and showed her acrimony through the best soliloquy in the film.

As weird as it is to see Jonah Hill together with James Franco not in a raunchy film, it is still debatable where they gave quite standout performances in a passive-aggressive way. Hill’s reactive trait as a performer conveys a witty journalist but at the same time evoked contentious issue as a reliable person, while Franco’s crinkly smiles undisputedly swooned over his manipulative character, but his stifled voice and forgivable eyes also sparked the audience’s crave of signaling danger. Aside from this, the interesting plot was left inert by the low resonance of emotions, and made Goold fell short to generate tension. Compromising it is a true story; it could be expected as a more elevating film by conveying deeper the characters’ mysteries or sparking creativity through riveting montages at the end. Instead, the already lacking of suspense leave a meager pay-off, craving the audience for some fresh air.


Review written by: Clara Anastasia

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