True Story is a difficult movie to review. The subject is troubling at best and wallows at length in the deepest depravity of human nature. Christian Longo — one of the subjects of the movie — killed his wife and youngest children and stuffed them in suitcases in December 2001. Then he tied heavy objects around the feet of his other kids, and threw them all in the ocean near Waldport, Ore.
He was captured seven days later in Mexico, claiming to be disgraced New York Times journalist Michael Finkel. A curious Finkel — desperate for redemption — met and eventually befriended Longo, who was sentenced to death in 2003.
Co-written and directed by first-time major release director Rupert Goold, True Story is based on Finkel’s book. It’s totally from Longo’s point of view, and missing are some of the important details about how he ended up so stressed that his only — but illogical — option was to murder his family.
James Franco plays Longo, and Jonah Hill is Finkel. Both are very good as societal bottom-feeders. Franco is completely creepy, and Hill, who is impossible not to like, has finally found a role that makes the impossible possible.
This one is very well done and, in places, it’s fascinating. However, neither man — nor their lives — is that appealing. That, ironically, is part of what makes the movie as interesting as it is repelling.