True Story isn’t terrible but at its core, there wasn’t enough ‘there’ to make for a very interesting feature film. The performances I suppose weren’t terrible yet by the same token the odd relationship between Finkel and Longo never really did much or make any sort of emotional connection.
Genre(s): Drama, Crime
Fox | R – 99 min. – $27.99 | August 4, 2015
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
There are times when it seems the right ingredients come together and yet what comes out is something dull and incredibly thin in terms of plot. True Story is the type of film where perhaps the actual experience, from the perspective of author Michael Finkel, was far more interesting than seeing it played out on film. This is something that might’ve been acceptable on Lifetime or as an hour-long documentary than a Hollywood feature.
The story of True Story centers on Michael Finkel (JONAH HILL), an award-winning writer for the New York Times whose entire professional world comes crumbling down when it’s discovered he made up a wide cloth of his latest story about an abused young man in Mexico. Fired from the Times, Finkel goes back to his Montana home and his lovely wife Jill (FELICITY JONES) in order to recuperate and find another job, though his credibility is completely shot.
Finkel receives a second chance when he receives a call from a reporter (ETHAN SUPLEE) from the Oregonian that a man named Christian Longo (JAMES FRANCO) had been arrested in Mexico for the murders of his family — a wife and three children — but had been passing himself off as Finkel. Finkel Prime travels to Oregon where Longo is being housed to get a handle on the crime, visiting the scenes, and eventually meet Christian face-to-face to find out what he’s all about. The meet is a bit… unusual… as the two gauge the other and Longo for his part is more than aloof about the crime he’s being accused of.
Soon enough, however, Michael and Christian form a sort of friendship, Christian providing information for a book Michael is writing while he helps Christian in how to speak more eloquently. While this relationship seems to be beneficial, back at home, Jill is uneasy as Christian’s disturbing artworks adorn Michael’s office and she wonders who is using whom.
True Story I think is supposed to be some kind of taut psychological drama but it never quite connects in that regard. One of the problems, beyond the obvious lack of any real plot, is the casting. Interestingly, Hill isn’t all that bad as Finkel though as a character, he’s kind of bland (not Hill’s fault) but I think it’s Franco who was miscast. Instead of being a manipulative narcissistic sociopath, he came more across as just menacing more than anything.
The film was adequately helmed by Rupert Goold marking his feature debut following a couple stabs at Shakespeare on two television series (both starring or co-starring Patrick Stewart) and while he attempts to provide the off-putting and downright gloomy atmosphere, with the help of composer Marco Beltrami’s haunting score, because there’s not enough ‘there’ it never resonates like it could have.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy.
Audio Commentary – Co-Writer/Director Rupert Goold sits down for a proper and low key track providing some background on the movie from the casting, specific shots and other bits of information. It’s an OK track but could’ve used another participant.
Deleted Scenes (16:44; HD) – Five scenes, including an alternate ending, were trimmed or removed and although they’re fine and add a few character moments, none would’ve made much of a difference. As far as the alt. ending it was really stupid. Optional commentary is also available.
Mike Finkel (3:33; HD) is background on the real-life writer and includes comments by Hill and others including Finkel himself.
Who Is Christian Longo? (3:56; HD) goes over the man who murdered his family.
The Truth Behind True Story (4:03; HD) and The Making of True Story (5:26; HD) are behind-the-scenes featurettes and includes interviews with the cast and crew on-location.
Also included is a Gallery and the Theatrical Trailer (2:25; HD).
VIDEO – 4.5/5
True Story arrives on Blu-ray presented in its original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture quality actually is impressive with excellent detail levels while colors are bright and well balanced throughout. There is a fair amount of natural film noise but nothing distracting and it appears to be a clean transfer free of aliasing or pixilation.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The film comes with a satisfying if not standard by this point DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The vast bulk of the film is dialogue-driven the remainder mainly Marco Beltrami’s haunting score and/or ambient noises like the sounds within the jail and such. It’s not exactly a dynamic soundtrack but effective enough for the genre.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, True Story isn’t terrible but at its core, there wasn’t enough ‘there’ to make for a very interesting feature film. The performances I suppose weren’t terrible yet by the same token the odd relationship between Finkel and Longo never really did much or make any sort of emotional connection. The Blu-ray release by Fox offers solid video/audio transfers while the bonus features are rather forgettable.
Brian Oliver aka The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.