Daily Egyptian

‘True Story’ aka Franco and Hill’s Oscarbait

By Jacob Pierce |@JacobPierce1_DE, Daily Egyptian

Neither Jonah Hill nor James Franco are foreign to dramatic material. 

Both transcend the stereotype of comedic actors having an inability to do serious work and possess the skill to elevate any film they are in.  

“True Story” (Rated R; 99 min) directed by Rupert Goold, is saved by the performance of Franco and the hair raising tension throughout the film.

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For a reporter, a job at the New York Times is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The pressure could bring even the strongest person down, something writer Michael Finkel, played by Hill, succumbs to. After lying about details in a story, Finkel goes from the top of the world, to being unemployed.

Stuck at home in Montana, the reporter starts to soul search and learns of a prisoned serial killer named Christian Longo, played by Franco, who used his name as an alias. Never meeting the man, Finkel visits him and Longo agrees to write a book about him. As the two talk, the previous reporter starts to realize there is more to this case than meets the eye.

“True Story” skirts the murky waters between a good and bad movie. At times the movie is an anxiety-inducing thrill ride where it is never clear what is what. Other times it shows a script barely worthy of a bad “Law and Order: SVU” episode, laughable and embarrassing at the same time.

Hill surprises throughout the film, just not in a good way. Between the two main actors, Hill is the better actor every time. Roles like Peter Brand and Donnie Azoff show a performer of a higher caliber. A thespian who personally develops even the most ridiculous of roles.

Finkel does not even reach the level of Hill’s middle ground roles.

The biggest problem the actor has throughout the film comes from his overall portrayal of the character. It is awkward and stiff and his method seems to be copying and pasting the manner of speech from his role in “Superbad.”

Instead of coming off as a person severely damaged by the events of the film, it feels like he should be talking about McLovin and having sexual relations with Emma Stone.

In comparison, Franco is the weaker actor overall. For every great role like the ones in “127 Hours” and “Spring Breakers,” there are flops like “Spider-Man 3” or “Flyboys.” He is a leading man who tends to fall flat on his face frequently.

In “True Story,” he portrays possibly his most frightening role to date. If it was not for a script at the level of an after school special, Franco could be playing a Norman Bates, Hannibal Lector caliber character. A particular monologue in the courtroom captivates you one minute, just to send chills right down your spine the next. This is all from the actor’s magnificent delivery. 

The biggest thrills in this movie comes from the straight faces characters have after doing the most deprived acts. Without spoiling anything, characters tell lies to each other with no remorse. They put on stone cold faces, telling falsehoods for their own entertainment.

The extremity of a character’s sociopathic nature terrifies more than any mutilated body could.

Stars: 3.5 out 5 stars

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