True Story Movie Review
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Like the eye of a tornado, True Story is quietly suspenseful, vile yet compelling. It’s a true crime story in the vein of Capote although not as weighty.
James Franco is Christian Longo, the man accused of killing his 3 children and wife. The crimes were disturbing, but Longo’s behavior calm and collected. Longo uses Finkel’s identity as an effective call-to-action for Finkel to seek out the murderer.
Longo and Finkel’s relationship is peculiar and strangely symbiotic. They agree to a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” approach to discussing the grisly murders. The conversations lead to a book deal for Finkel; an opportunity for redemption in the writing world. Longo learns to become a writer – but he becomes a better story-teller.
As the trial progresses, we learn Longo is very calculated and wicked. Franco plays the part decently, though its sometimes difficult to take him seriously. The heinous murder and Longo’s sensational account sell him as a man who could snap at a moments notice. This prospect keeps the viewer on the edge of his seat.
Felicity Jones plays Finkel’s wife Jill. Jones is grossly underused despite owning one of the film’s most intriguing scenes: a face-off with Longo. Mostly her part is relegated to slow motion captures of unraveling her husband’s obsession with the accused.
Jonah Hill is interesting as Finkel though not as appealing as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s turn as Truman Capote. There are similarities to Capote, but director Rupert Goold’s True Story dwells on Longo’s puzzling testimony and Finkel’s morality. It turns out Finkel’s redemption is also his curse.
True Story is an extremely slow-burning thriller. It tends to alienate audiences for stretches, but then whips them back into attention. The crime is awful, but never exploited by the filmmakers. The trial is twisted, but not repulsive. It’s riveting theater and recommended matinee fare.
Excellent review. The crimes were heinous. But, the interaction and development of the story was interesting.