True Story movie full length review - Poor show; true (?), but boring
I watched this movie without being aware, beyond the two-line summary on Sky Movies, of the real-life events it supposedly portrayed.
Amusingly enough, echoing the theme of the film, the summary was a little liberal with the truth. Longo didn't steal Finkel's identity. It wasn't identity theft. Longo simply used Finkel's name. Also, the time-line of when Longo did that was a bit murky. I guess we have to assume he'd read Finkel's NYT articles, up to an including the one with that stretched the truth, before he absconded to Mexico. On the whole, this film failed to deliver, on several counts, despite keeping my attention 'til the end. I guess I expected more, and kept hoping... The film posits the idea that the two undoubtedly flawed men had something in common i.e., they both indulged in lying, but to suggest their 'sin' was somehow equivalent is preposterous. Longo's approach to lying seemed to be compulsive and manipulative, whilst Finkel made one mistake. There is no suggestion in the film that Finkel was a persistent liar and, therefore, the idea that there were such similarities between the two lacks credibility. Only one man spun endless webs of lies, and if this movie is about deception, Finkel isn't the major culprit. Finkel's one lie was made with the best of intentions, albeit he breached the ethics of journalism. His purpose was honourable and what he did amounted to little more than a white lie. Turning the plot on such a line is stretching a thin idea to breaking point. This film is supposed to be about relationships, but one at least wasn't fleshed out in any meaningful way. At first, I though Finkel's wife was his sister; their interactions being more platonic than romantic. Whatever relationship they had wasn't obvious, and when it deteriorated, as it seemed to do, there was nothing substantial on screen to illustrate why. I got the impression she was unimpressed by the amount of time Finkel spent with Longo, but apart from pained looks, there were no further clues, either in the dialogue or in the characterisation. Speaking of dialogue, the flattery to which Finkel succumbs is surely juvenile writing. OK, there's only an hour and a half in which to present the story, but seriously, are we to believe a grown man was taken in by Longo's schoolboy rhetoric? Then we're led to believe that Finkel swaps journalism tips for Longo's story, ostensibly getting behind his facade and uncovering the true story behind the brutal murder of his wife and children. But there are no journalism tips, bar advice to avoid double negatives and a couple of parlour games. That advice comes back into play later, during a courthouse scene, but if it's meant to be a figurative, revealing moment, it falls short of any profundity. In fact, it's an embarrassingly banal moment. The true story is that, far from being a hard-nosed, investigative journalist, Finkel comes across as a gullible idiot. This is a drama, but its twists and turns are pretty much contrived. After Finkel gets a twinge of conscience and agrees to let the policeman have the information he got from Longo, we are left wondering just what that information was. We're not told, and if we're to surmise, there were no clues in the preceding hour. Nothing Longo told Finkel on screen up to that point could be construed as confessing to the murders and if he did as much in his writing to Finkel, we couldn't tell, because we weren't party to that content. Beyond a few frames in which we are presented with illustrated pages filled with moody and macabre images, which probably gave an insight into Longo's psyche, we can only speculate as to their written content, let alone the clues they supposedly presented. We are not shown enough of that content to put together the pieces of the puzzle. There was nothing substantive there. The audience might waver between guilty and not guilty, which means there was some drama, but this is not a psychological thriller with myriad twists and turns. Longo was playing mind games with Finkel, that's for sure, but if the former was the superior in terms of the psychological relationship, the latter was incredibly stupid. Neither the dialogue nor the acting built up that relationship to any effective level. The conversations between the two are well short of fascinating. We were left to assume that Finkel had been fooled, until the rather too obvious hint comes in through the disembodied voice of the Harper Collins publisher, who posed a leading question. This true story was nowhere near as interesting as it sounded. Finkel's tale of how he was taken in by Longo might be true, but it's pretty ordinary and if anything, damming of his professional ability. Far from being a journalist with a future, Finkel seems to have set a low standard and failed to achieve it. I pity anyone who's read the book.