True Story (2015) Movie Review: It’s Pretty Good- True Story

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for each icy cold – yet charismatic – stare that James Franco gives.

Take a Drink: when Jonah Hill punches glass. You’ll jump a little, I bet…

Do a Shot: if you’ve been in an unhealthier relationship than these two guys.

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Bill Arceneaux (A Toast) –

It’s clear from the opening minutes of True Story – only the 2nd feature film to star both James Franco and Jonah Hill – that this was directed more with an eye and an ear for performances than stylistic flare. And no duh, as a previous project from director Rupert Goold was a televised version of Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart. Everything comes out of the acting here, from the suspense to the heavily thematic battle at the core.

Who cares that the “true story” this was based on was updated to look familiar to modern day audiences? Why worry about the casting of actors known more for weird and comedic roles than dramatic ones? Rupert Goold guided Patrick Freaking Stewart in Macbeth, dammit!

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Picard murders with his hands. His BARE hands.

A Toast

True Story is now on a personal shortlist of favorite films for 2015, and it’s because of A) the acting and B) the tension. The story of Story involves the twisted tale of a growing friendship between a writer and a man on trial for killing his own family. What starts as a scoop any pro author would die – or kill? – for, soon turns into something scarily revealing and depressingly spot on. As a writer myself, I can personally vouch for the opinion this movie shares regarding symbiotic/parasitic relationships between writer and subject. It doesn’t matter if the subject is a person or not, as it can burrow its way into your skull and beyond, nesting and laying eggs while you stew and over-analyze.

Franco and Hill play a dirty cat and mouse game of manipulation against one another, by way of short conversations in transparent jail rooms. Despite the crystal clear glass surrounding the two of them, neither can fully see the cards either are playing with. On the surface, they are friendly and polite, perhaps out of timidity. Underneath, they’re judging each other’s body language, preparing what move to make next and how to get what they want. Hill wants a boost to his career, while Franco… well…

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At one point, Franco calls Hill’s companion, played incredibly by Felicity Jones. They are many miles apart, but during their talk, Jones finds it necessary to close the blinds and lock the doors. Franco wants someone to mess with, essentially. Someone he can lay his eggs into, and control from nearby and afar. Jones does fight back, in what is the best sequence of the film. A one on one confrontation, where she exclaims and reminds Franco as to who/what he is, which is crystal clear to her. Why can’t Hill see it? Does he want to see it?

While I’m sure some will be put off by Franco’s half tired “look” – which they’ll confuse for laziness – and some might not be able to see past Hill’s more comedic schticks, they will sorely miss out on some of the best performances yet this year. Subtle, suspenseful, and even searing.

Verdict

Based on the “critical consensus”, I’d be willing to bet that Rupert Goold won’t be assigned a superhero flick as his next project. While that sounds interesting, I think sticking to more smaller and intimate fare will eventually prove this director’s worth. True Story will slip through the cracks, unfortunately, so catch it soon – if you can, and if only for Felicity Jones.

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Worth it. MVP all the way.

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About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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