Both James Franco and Jonah Hill play against type in True Story, a dark true crime drama about the relationship between accused murderer Christian Longo (Franco) and journalist Mike Finkel (Hill). Franco has done his fair share of serious roles in the past (is there anything he HASN’T dabbled in?) and Hill has even been nominated for two Oscars but seeing them in a movie together primes me for gay jokes and arguments over who’s giving off more rapey vibes. They both did a fine job, Hill in particular, with Franco a little too self-consciously creepy, but I found the casting distracting.
Well, you hope that Franco is playing against type, but I guess we never really know what lurks beneath the pubic-hair beard. It was a bad casting choice; one or the other may have worked, but not both together. In fact, I’m not even sure I would keep Franco on my short list. He did the dead eyes thing a lot, and at first I thought, okay, that wouldn’t have been my choice, but at least he’s committing…but the more I knew about the character, the more I felt I needed to see grief or deviousness or SOMETHING. And yet I still enjoyed our little outing, dinner and a movie, trying Lansdowne Cineplex VIP’s new spring menu (though hasn’t it been spring for all of our visits?), indulging in a delicious lobster grilled cheese sandwich and a couple of raspberry-watermelon gin spritzes.
Poor Mike Finkel. One minute a Pulitzer feels like it’s right around the corner, the next he can’t even get hired to write a snowboarding piece. Maybe I’m a little jaded but I found the way he adjusted the details in order to tell a more powerful story easy to forgive. The film even tries clumsily to draw parallels between the stories of Finkel and Longo, the latter of whom strangled his wife and three children and stuffed them into suitcases. Not sure I see the connection.
Yeah, that was a weird angle. It’s like the writers felt they had an interesting story but had no idea how to present it. But Finkel’s indiscretion did feel relatively minor, having attributed a few extra details to a profile about African children. Did all of those things happen to the one kid? No. But he was telling a bigger story, and I suppose you and I could see that while his superiors valued cold facts over a story that moves. Either way, the rest of us would call those white lies at best – in a generous mood, maybe even “fudging” or “embellishing”, you know, the way I fudged the truth up there where a) I claimed we had dinner and a movie when in actuality we saw a movie, and then had dinner and b) I characterized the grilled cheese as delicious although in reality I found it to be ambitious movie food but ultimately soggy in the middle and overly crispy around the edges – so much so that I feared you were about to shush me at any moment.
Longo accuses Finkel of being more like him than he’d like to admit. After all, Finkel did profit financially from telling this story. Is it a fair comparison? Not only did Longo murder his family, he shows no remorse and lies compulsively to protect himself. Was his a story that needed to be told- by Finkel or by the filmmakers- or is this more attention than he deserved?
I didn’t see them as being very similar at all. Multiple homicide is not equal to getting paid to write. I think Finkel was a bit motivated by career-redemption – it certainly kept him from following up on some serious red flags, and I think he may have been more guilty of journalistic negligence here than in his kerfuffle with the New York Times. He was a weak man but I don’t think he was a bad one. As for your last question, I’ve been thinking on that so much that I wrote a whole post about it – watch for it soon.
There may have been a good movie in here somewhere. Maybe if it really focused on the somewhat bizarre relationship between these two men instead of the maturation of these two actors. Or if it asked the right questions. It’s revealed at the end that the two men still speak semi-regularly. WHY?! There may be a much more interesting story there than the one told in True Story.
Agreed. There was nothing in the movie that suggested that these two would or could remain friends. One of the last scenes has Longo asking Finkel what he has personally lost by befriending him – seems like a friendship-ending thought to me. I also felt that they didn’t properly address the whole stolen identity aspect, and the verdict feels a little…out of the blue. But the part that I find myself dwelling on the most is that end title card that read something like – Christian Longo went on to write for many publications, including The New York Times, from death row. Finkel never wrote for them again. It really made me feel like our social priorities are horribly fucked up.