Writing articles does not mean you’re a smart person. Having an imagination does not mean you can use it in the right way, or take it in the right direction. Coming up with a new story means nothing at all, if you, as the writer, do not feel it. The story told in True Story is a good example of how no one is immune from being fooled, not even if you’re a great writer and your publisher is the New York Times.
Mike Finkel is a famous journalist whose articles were published on the cover page of the New York Times ten different times. After making up, or correcting his seemingly perfect articles for the readers, he loses his job. Everything changes when he receives a call from a man with some intriguing information – reporting about someone, who has been arrested for the murder of his wife and three children who, during the arrest, introduces himself as a journalist- Mike Finkel, from the New York Times. When Finkel goes to prison he meets a convicted man who offers him a deal – to tell his side of the story – a ‘true story’… But how true it is, is something you must decide…
I tried to give myself some time before allowing myself to go ahead with the review of this film. True Story is one of those films that gives you enough time to think and analyze the entire story while you watch the film. But the truth is, what you may receive in return is not what you may have expected… I may sound harsh and my opinion may sound a little bit startling, but this are the exact feelings I experienced as soon as I left the auditorium.
True Story begins with Mike Finkel who interviews two African boys. Not getting enough satisfaction from his story he tries to make it better. Finkel writes his own story while the photo of the boy displayed on the cover of an influential newspaper does not belong to the real heroes of his story. But good fortune turns her face towards Finkel when, whether intentional or not, Christian uses the famous journalist’s identity to escape arrest. And here is when the most fascinating part of the film begins, when Finkel is slowly played by a cold-blooded murderer.
The main issue of the film is most likely the leading cast member, Jonah Hill, whose attempt to capture all Finkel’s emotions ends on the paper, and that, maybe, is not a bad thing. There were plenty of opportunities for Jonah Hill to show how desperate, angry, or determined FInkel was while he was going through his interview with Christian, however, what the viewer gets are mixed feelings of whether to feel sorry for him, or to dislike him. James Franko`s, Christian, appears to be a highly educated man who killed his wife and three children. However, Christian is portrayed in this film almost as a hero who expertly plays a game with one of the best journalists at the New York Times. He makes this famous man look like a little child in a circus; a circus created by Christian Longo.
James Franco, as Longo, delivers his best performance since 127 Hours and carries the entire film with a very delicate approach. He takes his time (and he has enough of it) as he slowly, and purposefully takes his character to a level where even Mike Finkel himself could not have imagined – as a real hero, despite his shocking crime. I am sure, if Finkel knew how convincingly Longo would be depicted by Franco, he would have given up on his idea to write the story about Christian Longo. Finkel, himself, looks unconvincing and even more dependent than Longo, who did his best to manipulate the writer to describe his story in the book the way he wanted.
Unfortunately, there were many ways to prevent this story of ever coming out as no one could be convinced that such a brutal crime deserves this kind of attention. But in terms of a film, it`s a good thing that it happened, otherwise we would have missed the highly impressive performance delivered by Franco.