True Story | The Journalist and the Murderer

Jonah Hill and James Franco in True Story.

Based on the real account of a disgraced reporter for the New York Times and his 2006 memoir, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, the film True Story reveals the lives of two men who must each deal with their own moral transgressions and who form an unusual relationship.

Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill) has a brilliant career as a journalist until he gets caught in a lie. Writing an exposé on African child slaves, he combines the true details of several children into the persona of one fictitious boy. Finkel is exposed, fired, and disgraced.

And soon after, he faces an even bigger temptation. A man named Christian Longo (James Franco) gets arrested for killing his family while identifying himself as Mike Finkel, the New York Times reporter. Seizing the chance for a news scoop, Finkel visits Longo in Oregon’s Lincoln County jail where Longo is awaiting trial. And with each man facing a life crisis, the two bare their souls, though Finkel does most of the baring. Longo makes him an offer: Finkel gets exclusive information if he’ll be his writing coach. Finkel is hungry to turn Longo’s story into a book. But can he really trust Longo? And does this question roar as loud in Finkel’s mind as it does in ours?

Well-directed (and co-written with Finkel) by Rupert Goold, this eerie drama simmers with gruesome details, yet it’s quietly executed with low-decibel conversations between the reporter and the prisoner. And it’s a gripper. Jonah Hill steps away from his comedic style to become the fallen reporter, while Franco channels the deceptively gentle persona of a man who wouldn’t hurt a mosquito, and who makes us want to bathe in disinfectant. True Story will get you pondering about how well you face off with temptation and how accurately you can size someone up, especially when he offers you what you desperately want. Especially when he might be a killer.   A-