FILM REVIEW: True Story (15) ***

True Story fails to capture hearts and minds. PA Photo/Mary Cybulski/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
True Story fails to capture hearts and minds. PA Photo/Mary Cybulski/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
(Back to camera) Garrett Hedlund as Jamie McAllan. (Front of cart) Mary J. Blige as Florence Jackson (also inset)  and Rob Morgan as Hap Jackson.

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Based on Michael Finkel’s memoir of the same name, True Story dramatises the real-life Faustian pact between a disgraced journalist and a charming husband, accused of murdering his entire family.

‘Sometimes the truth isn’t believable. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true,’ coolly observes the accused.

It’s a fair point but the absence of plausibility and verifiable facts makes for a frustrating viewing experience, compounded by the squandering of Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory Of Everything) in a thankless supporting role.

Celebrated New York Times reporter Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) pens a feature about contemporary child slavery in the African chocolate trade.

The article makes the cover of the newspaper’s magazine but embarrassing evidence subsequently comes to light that Michael wilfully distorted the facts.

‘I said write it up, not make it up,’ seethes his editor (Gretchen Mol).

Hill plays his part with wide-eyed fascination while Franco remains slippery yet oddly engaging

With an indelible stain on his reputation, Finkel returns shame-faced to snow-laden Montana and his wife Jill (Jones).

Soon after, journalist Pat Frato (Ethan Suplee) contacts Mike for a comment about the recent arrest of Christian Longo (James Franco), a man wanted for the murder of his wife and three children, in Mexico.

‘When they apprehended him, he said he was Mike Finkel of The New York Times,’ explains Frato.

Intrigued why Longo stole his identity, Finkel visits Christian behind bars and forges a strange bond with the accused.

Hill plays his part with wide-eyed fascination while Franco remains slippery yet oddly engaging, teasing out some of the facets of Longo’s narcissistic personality disorder.

Goold and co-writer Kajganich tread a careful path between legal record and litigious speculation that leaves too many key questions unanswered.

In the hard fought battle for our hearts and suspicious minds, Goold’s film fails to conquer either.