Friday, April 24, 2015

True Story Review

Now here's a movie that you may have never heard of. I myself had barely heard of it before it showed up in theaters this past weekend. So let me catch you up to speed real quick. This was one of those movies that Oscar buffs thought might have a slight chance at award recognition had it actually come out last year. It didn't, though. Instead it premiered this January at the Sundance Film Festival. I thought about attending Sundance this year since it's not too far away from where I am. But for various reasons, I chose not to. Instead I decided to play the waiting game because the best movies from Sundance usually get picked up by a distribution company and eventually make their way to theaters. Thus was the case with True Story, which I believe is one of the first movies from this year's festival to hit theaters. Outside the cast, I still didn't know much about this when it did hit theaters. Then I actually read the premise. Yup, I was in. This is a crime drama/mystery/thriller thing. If you know me, these types of movies are right down my alley.

I know you all have the same question in your mind, so let me answer it. Yes, this is based on a true story. It stars Jonah Hill as Michael Finkel and James Franco as Christian Longo. I'll get to those two actors in a second, but the story of Michael Finkel and Christian Longo is a really interesting one. Longo was a seemingly normal man who, nearly out of the blue as the movie claims, killed his wife and three kids. Or at least that's what he's accused of at the beginning of the movie. We get his actual court trial towards the end. Before he got caught and arrested, though, he was on the run taking on the identity of Michael Finkle, who is a New York Times reporter that just got fired for adding a few too many creative liberties in one of his big stories. What does Finkle do when he discovers that this convicted killer took on his identity? Well, being a reporter he decides to go visit him in jail/prison to get his story. Because that's of course the most logical solution, right? The result of these visits is a memoir Finkle ends up writing based on these experiences that he calls True Story, which of course takes several surprise turns.

Like I said, I think the idea behind this movie is a really fascinating one. I was really intrigued as I tried to figure out Finkle's motivations behind everything. I also enjoyed the mystery aspect of it. Like I inferred, at this point Longo was accused of killing his wife and kids. But since it came out of the blue, on the surface anyways, there is the question of if he is actually guilty or not and that is what Finkle is trying to figure out because Longo initially tells him that he innocent. I personally bought the mystery and intrigue. I love that stuff. However, I will admit that there did come a point in the movie where it did drag on a bit. I was waiting for the drama to pick up and for the longest time it didn't. Slow is not always bad. Many times slow is necessary and makes for a dang good film. In this instance, though, slow was boring and I almost actually dozed off a few times. Thankfully it did finally pick up and when it did the ride to the end was actually a pretty intense, fun ride. So yeah, they could've fixed that middle somehow, but overall this made for a pretty solid flick.

What definitely made it work were the two performances from our leads. James Franco and Jonah Hill are actually two pretty versatile actors, both of whom have Oscar nominations under their belts. Typically they are known for their comedies, especially when you see them both together in a movie. I mean, if I told you I saw a movie with Jonah Hill and James Franco and that was all I said, I'm sure that the first thing you would ask is which new comedy I went to see. But no. This is far from comedic, which is why I liked it. James Franco is actually a really likable character, which in turn makes him a very creepy character when you think of what he is accused of doing. Jonah Hill, though, is the one that really impressed me. Franco I've seen in several serious roles and I know he does a dang good job with them. Hill on the other hand is a different story. I'm not a huge fan of his style of comedy, but I know those who are acknowledge that he is a very funny man, so I give him props for that. And he has done a decent job in his supporting roles that he's done being that that's the category his two nominations came from, but this is the first time I've personally seen him as the lead role in a serious film and he knocked this out of the park. I'd say this is a much more solid performance than his other two performances that got him Oscar nominations and if this movie came out towards the end of the year, I'd say maybe this was good enough to at least get him in the conversation for another nomination, this time as a lead.

Finally we have this girl named Felicity Jones, who I think is really starting to make a name for herself. Before last year, she was a fairly unknown actress. Then she showed up as Felicia in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which was of course followed by her true breakout performance as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything which got her a best actress nomination in the most recent Oscars. In True Story she plays Jonah Hill's wife and her role isn't very big, but towards the end of the movie she has a moment. It's only one moment, but holy freaking cow is it a dang good moment. It's a moment that almost steals the whole movie right away from James Franco and Jonah Hill. Thus it reminded me that this girl definitely has a very bright future in front of her that will almost certainly take off next year at the latest when she will show up as a lead role in the Star Wars spin-off called Rogue One.

Overall if you need a good movie to see and you don't want to wait until Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out next weekend to go to the theaters next, I'd recommend you give True Story a shot, especially if you're into the crime drama genre like me. This made almost nothing in it's small nationwide expansion, so if you don't get it now, you'll have to wait until it shows up at RedBox, in which case it would be a couple dollars spent very well. Yes, it is a bit slow during the middle, but it's an intriguing premise that immediately catches your attention and ends very well. Any slack that the movie itself leaves is picked up by solid performances from our two leads in James Franco and Jonah Hill, who prove once again how versatile they are as acting. And of course Felicity Jones totally owns it in her moment. My grade for True Story is an 8/10.

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