True Story is out of the theaters, which means it will soon appear on DVD and On Demand services. Despite starring Jonah Hill and James Franco and produced by Missouri native Brad Pitt the film did not have much push in the market place.
True Story opens with an adorable little girl looking adorably asleep in one of her parents’ suitcases until someone zips her up inside and the audience realizes Miss Cutie Pie is dead. True Story is meta if for no other reason besides being based on a true story. Hill plays Michael Finkel (who wrote the book True Story which the movie is based on). In 2001 Finkel was on top of the world writing cover pieces for New York Times Magazine until it was discovered his article about the 21st century African slave trade featured composite characters instead of actual individuals. Much like a Price is Right contestant who bid too low during a Showcase Showdown, Finkel is given the boot from his job and moves back to wintertime Montana.
Same year Finkel was exchanging publishing platitudes for snow boots, Christian Logo (Franco) is in Oregon murdering his wife and three children. Shortly after the bodies are discovered and Logo makes the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list he is found in Mexico. A reporter contacts Finkel wanting his response about Logo using Finkel’s identity to, among other things one presumes, impress comely young German tourists for one night stands. It is the first Finkel hears about it. With little else to do and smelling a possible way to gain back journalism cred, Finkel decides to meet with Logo. The result is a budding bromance.
True Story is not a bad film per se, but it isn’t one that floors viewers with the acting, plot, or even shock that a man who cannot fulfill his perception of a middleclass lifestyle ends up murdering his family. It is hard to buy into Hill portraying Finkel whose writing takes him all over the globe and into some very dangerous places though it is much easier to wrap the mind around him being asthmatic. However Franco as a serial killer*…well, is the Pope Catholic? Does Taco Bell serve tacos? Does it sometimes rain in Seattle? Do bears…?
The film is dependent on close ups for tension along with scenes with just dialogue between the leads. Near the end Finkel realizes Logo is sociopathic but hey, you don’t need to be an investigative journalist to connect the dots that a guy who murdered his family might manipulate a media source. What didn’t make sense within the storyline was how at first law enforcement wanted Finkel’s help in Logo’s prosecution and then when Finkel no longer thinks of Logo as his homie the detective who originally solicited for information cares nothing for what Finkel can offer him. His response to Finkel came across as a law enforcer’s version of journalist slut shaming.
Although interesting, the true story behind True Story isn’t compelling enough to make the film a must see. Because of the close ups, lengthy dialogues, and general boredom of the topic I do not think the movie will play better on a smaller screen.
*In the film Logo is not accused of being a serial killer; just murdering his family and working at Starbucks. I am only postulating James Franco is a serial killer.