The true story that "True Story" is based on is the kind of too-wild-to-be-real crime story that would make fans of HBO's "The Jinx" take note. Sadly, the intrigue level slips, thanks in part to the film's offbeat casting. Because when you think "true crime drama," you think Jonah Hill, right?
Hill plays Michael Finkel, a disgraced former New York Times journalist who is drawn into the story of accused murderer Christian Longo (James Franco) in an unusual way. Upon his arrest, Longo claimed he was Finkel.
The movie starts with a gut punch and does a nice job of setting up its bizarre mystery, but it seems strangely meandering. The eventual revelations feel like they should be jaw-droppers. In the context of the movie, they are not.
First-time director Robert Goold’s background is in theater, so some of the staging and pacing issues may be lost in translation, but the real distraction here is the casting.
Hill has been a scene-stealer (and Oscar nominee) in non-comedies “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Moneyball,” but this is a bigger leap than he’s made. It’s fun watching Franco get into the complex Longo, but pairing him with Hill feels like there’s a dark comedy about to break out.
The biggest crime of “True Crime” is underusing its best actor. Felicity Jones only gets a few moments to shine, and she’s stuck in a clichéd dutiful wife trope to boot.
“True Story” doesn’t work as well as it could have/should have, but it does manage to sort of work as a true-crime beach read, if that’s your thing.