Jonah Hill and James Franco break out of their comedic comfort zone for True Story, based on just that. Here, Hill plays Michael Finkel, a New York reporter who gets in some hot water after a story he reported on is partially fabricated. He’s fired and returns home to Montana. We see him desperately searching for a new job when he gets a call about Christian Longo (James Franco). Longo’s wife and three children have been discovered murdered and he’s now in prison for it. When Longo got arrested in Mexico, he tells the police that he is a reporter named Michael Finkel. When Finkel gets the call (unaware that Longo claimed to be him), he agrees to meet with him. Longo tells him that he has been a huge fan of his for a long time. Longo agrees to tell his side of the story to Finkel in exchange for writing lessons from Finkel and that Finkel not reveal what they have spoken about. The two continue to meet for several months. Longo writes Finkel several letters as well, including admitting to every mistake he’s ever made. All of this builds towards Longo’s trial where those who are familiar with the actual story might know what happens. I’ll leave that element for the viewer to discover as to not spoil anything.
Truth be told, True Story sounds much more intriguing that it actually is. The film lags too much in the middle and fails to hold me the way I expected it to. I’m a fan of both Hill and Franco, but Hill feels a bit out of his element here. It’s not that he gives a bad performance, but he seems to struggle a bit with some of the more dramatic moments. That’s only a minor nitpick since the film itself has more issues other than that odd casting choice. Franco does fine in the role, though there’s nothing particularly remarkable about his performance either. The film has been accused of taking some liberties with the facts as well. Being unfamiliar with the specifics of the story prior to seeing the film, this element didn’t bother me. That with the fact that movies do that with fact-based stories quite often. Ultimately, the film just left me cold. It has the elements in place, but the final product is too flawed to recommend. I’d advise skipping the film and looking up the real life story instead. It’s far more interesting that anything seen in the film.
Video: How’s it look?
There’s not a lot to crow about in this 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer. That’s not to say it looks bad, it just doesn’t exhibit anything that would make me stand up and say “Wow!” (and yes, I’ve actually done that before). Shot on film, the image has a fine layer of grain that’s present during most scenes. The interview scenes are a bit flat, though detail is razor sharp. It’s an interesting and documentary-type feel that plays out like you’re watching this on cable as opposed to a feature-length film. Still, there’s nothing terribly wrong with it, it’s just not something that’s memorable.
Audio: How’s it sound?
As expected, the DTS HD Master Audio sound mix didn’t really hit all the marks either. Most of the film is dialogue between the two main characters, though there are a few scenes that added some extra sound (out of the surrounds). Again, it’s not bad, per se, but it’s just not exactly going to test the limits of your system either. I don’t think audiences will be disappointed, but it won’t impress anyone, either.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Audio Commentary – Director Rupert Goold doesn’t do a bad job for his first audio commentary. Mainly it’s some details about the shoot and the fact that he got James Franco and Jonah Hill to be in his film.
Deleted Scenes – Nothing too exciting here and all feature optional commentary by Goold.
Promotional Featurettes – These each run from about three to five minutes and shed a bit more light on the main players in the movie as well as some behind the scenes footage from the film.
Who is Christian Longo?
The Truth Behind True Story
The Making of True Story
Digital HD Copy
The Bottom Line
Despite some intense moments and an intriguing set-up, Story failed to captivate me the way it should’ve. Skip the film and research the facts instead. It makes for a much more interesting experience.