“True Story” is true to some extent. The character played by Jonah Hill, Michael Finkel, is a sacked journalist of the New York Times (NYT). And the character played by James Franco, Christian Lego, is a convicted criminal serving time in jail. And there is actress Felicity Jones, as wife of Jonah Hill, who is not pivotal but significant, not as character but as an actress in her role. Much on her later.
The movie is led by two very good actors, Jonah Hill and James Franco. The movie has several scenes of conversation between them and it’s here that both show their mettle. When good actors confront, there’s chemistry, and there’s anatomy too. Chemistry between two actors is ethereal, the viewer can only sense it, feel it, the desire to catch every word in the dialogue, to be present in the moment to do so.
Besides chemistry, anatomy is also major player in acting. Particularly the eyes. It’s amazing to see a simple conversation being heightened by clever use of the eyes. Jonah Hill as journalist is interviewing James Franco the criminal and what’s said in the scenes is complemented by how their eyes react to the answers and questions.
The eyes and anatomy and chemistry also fail. They not only take down one but both the actors. It’s because Felicity Jones is miscast in the movie. Or she has no contribution, scriptwise. Or, to be brutal, she is a bad actress.
In most of the scene she is shown roaming around with “questioning eyes”, and “pained expressions”. What she is questioning or on what she is pained, she can’t make clear, acting wise. Her expressions and presence in scenes only cast doubts and the viewer is left guessing the rest. Many of her emoting are misfires.
Felicity Jones eventual fall comes when she confronts James Franco. Now Franco is playing a character who has murdered his wife and three young children. And he is impersonating as if he is Jonah Hill. Felicity Jones as Jonah Hill’s wife is confronting James Franco who denies murder. Here, one can see the complexities of this scene and the difficulties in projecting the predicaments on screen. These are extremely difficult scenes. And difficult shots. What other actresses could have shouldered this performance?
Felicity Jones and James Franco scenes fall off the performance table and breaks into many pieces. James Franco also goes down in his scenes with Felicity Jones, his acting resembling a caricature. He is basically left squinting. It’s plain, chemistry and anatomy and “eyes”didn’t work with these two onscreen.
The movie, “True Story” is not the movie which the promos projects it to be. Some of the epithets used to describe the movie are; “a true crime thriller”, “some mysteries are beyond belief”, “a fix for true crime addicts”, etc., I had difficulty searching a correct photo to attach with my blog. In the end I got one. My reaction after watching the movie was “FelicityJones-ish.” You have to watch the movie to know what I mean.
Yet, True Story has many great moments and it is these that maketh the movie.