Review: Twisted bromance goes wrong in 'True Story'
A key connection is missed in "True Story," a thoroughly serious bromance starring Jonah Hill and James Franco, and it leaves the film adrift, aching for glue.
Based on — what else? — a true story, the film begins with Hill's character, a well-known New York Times reporter named Michael Finkel, losing his job after manufacturing part of a story. Devastated and ashamed, Finkel returns to his academic wife, Jill (Felicity Jones), and their remote home.
Then one day he gets a call. It turns out an accused murderer, Christian Longo (James Franco), has been hiding in Mexico, claiming to be Finkel because he was a fan of his writing. Now imprisoned in Oregon, Longo is accused of killing his wife and their three small children.
Intrigued, Finkel travels to see Longo, who claims he's innocent and the only one who knows what went on. Driven by professional desperation and a need to connect, Finkel eventually agrees to write a book about Longo's trial and teach Longo how to write.
The film is then driven by the odd relationship between the two men, a you-complete-me bond that director and co-writer Rupert Goold never really sells. The men have wildly different histories and demeanors — the fact that they take similar notes and each has his own guilt doesn't really add up to some believable mystic connection.
In fact, the film's strongest scene doesn't even have Hill in it. It's when Jill travels to confront Longo as a monster who's messing with her husband's head. Jones delivers her moral righteousness with a passion the rest of the film lacks. Otherwise, this is just the story of an awful human and the dupe who loved him.
Rated R for language and some disturbing material
Running time: 100 minutes