By S. Jhoanna Robledo,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Gripping, disturbing drama based on real murders.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The truth will eventually come out.
Positive Role Models
Finkel means well and tries to arrive at the truth, but he doesn't always make the best decisions. Longo is eerily detached and unempathetic -- and that's the least of his sins.
Violence & Scariness
Many creepy, menacing scenes that show how the murders were carried out. Not overtly gory, but disturbing and uncomfortable to watch: For example, movie begins by showing a dead little girl in a large suitcase, her stuffed animal tossed in with her and the luggage later zipped. Kids are shown tossed into a river; autopsy photos of corpses are displayed on trial. Longo describes how he killed his wife.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One scene shows a man staring out a window while a woman, her back naked, is sleeping on a bed. Two men talk about one of them picking someone up and sleeping with that person.
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"A--hole," "f--k," and "motherf--ker."
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Products & Purchases
Labels/products mentioned or seen include Ford, Apple, the New York Times, Dean & Deluca, HarperCollins.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that True Story is based on real-life events, including reporter Michael Finkel's (Jonah Hill) fall from grace at the New York Times and the subsequent back-and-forth he struck up with Christian Longo (James Franco), a man found guilty of murdering his wife and their kids -- and who escaped detection by authorities by impersonating Finkel. The details are very disturbing and tough to process, especially the parts that cover the murders; autopsy photos are shown, and the victims' deaths are re-enacted (images of dead children are shown). It's also discomfiting to get into the mind of Longo, which the movie does. Expect some swearing, including "f--k" and more, and detailed descriptions of the murders.
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Based on 1 parent review
Safe to view but might not hold their attention
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What's the Story?
In 2001, journalist Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) was ousted from the New York Times after editors discovered he'd mixed up sources and their stories in an article about child slaves in Africa. Dejected and defeated, Finkel retreats to Montana, where he and his girlfriend, Jill (Felicity Jones), live together, to figure out what his next steps should be. As it turns out, his future comes to him in the form of a message from another journalist, who informs him that Christian Longo (James Franco), a man accused of killing his wife and their three kids, was just apprehended in Mexico and found to be impersonating Finkel. Curious and conflicted, Finkel meets Longo, and so begins a strange friendship that leads the journalist to write a book and -- more importantly -- to examine his own beliefs about truth and redemption.
Is It Any Good?
This film benefits greatly from efficient storytelling and taut editing. Based on the same-named book by Finkel, TRUE STORY also works thanks to the two leads, Hill and Franco, who go toe to toe in a film that's mostly compelling. But here's the problem: Viewers are brought on a journey that has Finkel seemingly buying into Longo's story, but they're not likely to be as on the fence as Finkel is. Though the movie tries to seed a hint of doubt about the cops' version of events to heighten tension, it's not an easy sell. (How can a reporter this astute be so seemingly willing to believe Longo's story?) And the scenes in which Jill mentally and verbally tussles with Longo fall short of believability, too. Their "confrontations" seem stagey, with Jones woefully underused in her supporting role. The one-on-ones between Hill and Franco may be some of the best parts of the movie, but they're not quite enough to sustain its momentum.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how True Story handles the murders: Do you think the detailed accounts are necessary to the story? How does a filmmaker handle material like this?
What connects Finkel and Longo? Is Finkel taking advantage of a tragedy to seek redemption, or is he being a good reporter and following a story?
Does Finkel retain an objectivity throughout his communications with Longo? Is that important?
Is a story like this less upsetting because you don't see much of the violence actually taking place, or does the aftermath have just as much impact?
- In theaters: April 17, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: August 4, 2015
- Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill
- Director: Rupert Goold
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some disturbing material
- Last updated: April 1, 2022
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