Jonah Hill and James Franco get deadly serious in the new film, "True Story." As the title indicates, this drama is based on actual events but beware ... the truth can be an elusive endeavor.
Hill plays Michael Finkel, a disgraced New York Times reporter who's desperately trying to catch a break after he falsified a story. It oddly comes in the form of identity theft. Seems Christian Longo (Franco) has assumed Finkel's identity after having been accused of brutally murdering his entire family.
It also seems that Longo is a fan of Finkel's previous work and wants to speak with him. This goes way beyond getting a break for the frustrated Finkel. It's a dream come true. He smells a book in the making. But his arduous interviews with Longo, who's a master manipulator, begin to take on a stench.
"True Story" plays games on two distinct levels, simultaneously. That of cat-and-mouse as Longo tricks Finkel into helping him. And those involving head games played by both protagonists as they try frantically to get what they want from one another. It's chilling to watch them interact. It's also macabre.
Rupert Goold directs and co-scripts this intense and sinister story by accentuating the relationship between the selfish Finkel and the sociopathic Longo. The disturbing crime almost takes a back seat to their dynamic. And in a wise move, Goold makes the truth such an ever changing reality that it keeps the audience in a state of perpetual wonder.
The casting is beyond surprising. Franco and Hill (buddies in real life) are known for their collaboration in "Knocked Up" and "This is the End." "True Story" is quite a departure, to say the least. But it works. Franco's icy depiction of a homicidal maniac plays well off of Hill's smarmy selfishness.
When Longo observes, "You'll just be the guy who's talking to the guy that murdered his family," he puts it all into perspective for Finkel. After which, he exits with a shrug and a wink. In that moment Finkel knows he's been had. But has he? In the closing credits we learn that the two still speak to each other on a monthly basis. Smells like another book.