It was good, but not exciting. True Story.


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It’s hard to make a true-crime drama interesting and easy to digest, but for the first feature length film from fledgling director Rupert Goold, “True Story” seems to have come out relatively well.

Starring Jonah Hill as a disgraced journalist and James Franco as a could-be murderer, “True Story” follows the relationship that develops between them as Hill attempts to understand the how and the why of James Franco. It is based on the (you guessed it) true story of former New York Times journalist Michael Finkel (played by Hill) and convicted killer Christian Longo (Franco).

Overall, there is almost nothing inherently wrong with this film. The pacing is spot on, assuring that the plot never rushes or drags, the acting was adequate (albeit not exemplary), and the story itself was clear and interesting. All in all, the movie was good. Unfortunately, “good” doesn’t always mean interesting.

The nature of the story did not lend itself to proper character development and thus made it difficult to find any sort of connection between audience and character. This is not to say that the audience has to like the characters, but for this film it certainly made it difficult to watch. By the third act, it becomes a challenge to remain interested when it seems too obvious what the outcome of the relationship and trial is going to be. This is a product not only of the writing, but of the acting.

It is true that Jonah Hill and James Franco have proven themselves to be excellent dramatic actors as well as comedic, but it seems this film didn’t bring out the best in either of them. They weren’t bad, not by a long shot, but neither were especially compelling. Jonah Hill specifically seemed more like a toned down version of himself than like the character Michael Finkel. Both actors were above average, but neither was excellent.

Now none of these shortcomings are anything to scoff at. For the first film from a new director, this one is really good. The best comparison from recent years would be last year’s “Foxcatcher,” though “True Story” lacks the immense tension that “Foxcatcher” had.

In short, “True Story” should not be missed by the crime drama lovers, but it certainly won’t thrill the average movie-goer. There is nothing wrong with the construction of the film and it is a worthwhile experience, but it is more likely to bore than to entertain.