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Jonah Hill and James Franco get serious in ‘True Story’

Dynamic duo Jonah Hill and James Franco trade their usual silly roles for a serious dark drama battle of wits.

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A little girl in footsie pajamas curls up, snuggling close to her teddy bear. In a yellow suitcase. At the bottom of a river.

Right from the opening scenes of “True Story,” director Rupert Goold shocks his audiences into reevaluating morality and truth in his riveting film adaptation inspired by real life events.

Divers discovered two suitcases, each holding the crumpled bodies of his wife and 2-year-old daughter on Dec. 27, 2001, according to the New York Daily News. The pair died by the hands of a man that once shared a life with them. Last week’s mystery-drama release took his story to the screen.

Christian Longo (James Franco) is accused of murdering his wife and three young children, and is then found hiding in Mexico, posing as the famous New York Times writer Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill).

Meanwhile, Finkel is undergoing a crisis of his own. The New York Times catches onto the fact that he fabricated an article they published in their magazine. After muddying up his name, he returns solemnly to his girlfriend, Jill Barker (Felicity Jones), in gloomy, snowing Montana.

As both men destroy their credibility, Finkel discovers fugitive Longo has been posing as himself and becomes genuinely interested. The pair meet face to face within Longo’s holding cell and begin their journey as buddies and enemies.

The duo plays a cat-and-mouse game throughout the film, dangling the audience along in their chase for the truth.

Goold parallels Longo and Finkel’s lives as they both struggle to understand each other and themselves. From the way they cope with their similar states of alienation to their mutual journalistic intrigue, their friendship is creepy and disturbing, yet completely relatable.

Flashbacks of Longo’s picture-perfect life appear between present-day scenes. The contrast of a warm, sunny day radiating happiness on a now dead family is haunting.

Longo’s character seems to not only play Finkel, but the audience as well. His deep brown eyes shine with pain and softness. Yet his shy and calm nature lends a sense of disconcerting mystery.

The pairing of Franco and Hill for a dark drama film was risky, but Goold pulls it off. Typically Franco and Hill costar in comedies, like “The Interview” or “This is the End.” It’s entertaining to see the usual silly pair conduct a sinister battle of wits.

However, the thrilling ambiguity loses its charm three-fourths into the story. The constant uncertainty matched with the plot’s predictability allotted for gross dissatisfaction.

“True Story”’s anticlimactic ending makes the 100-minute-long, emotional rollercoaster unnecessary. The ride is fun, but audiences know how it will end before they even board.

Perhaps the most hair-raising component to “True Story” is that the film is in fact a true story.

Goold’s adaptation gives Longo’s case justice, but no matter how well his story was told, the real Longo couldn’t outrun his fate. He is currently awaiting death by lethal injection under Oregon Law.

RATING: 4 stars out of 5

 

DIRECTOR: Rupert Goold

STARRING: Jonah Hill, James Franco

DISTRIBUTED BY: Fox Searchlight Pictures

RELEASED: April 17

MPAA: R

RUN TIME: 100 min.

 

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