True Story (film)

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True Story
True Story poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRupert Goold
Written by
Based onTrue Story
by Michael Finkel
Produced by
CinematographyMasanobu Takayanagi
Edited byChristopher Tellefsen
Nicolas De Toth
Music byMarco Beltrami
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • January 23, 2015 (2015-01-23) (Sundance)
  • April 17, 2015 (2015-04-17) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$5.3 million[2]

True Story is a 2015 American mystery drama film directed by Rupert Goold in his directorial debut based on a screenplay by Goold and David Kajganich. Based on the memoir of the same name by Michael Finkel, it stars Jonah Hill, James Franco and Felicity Jones, with Gretchen Mol, Betty Gilpin and John Sharian in supporting roles.

Franco plays Christian Longo, a man on the FBI's most-wanted list accused of murdering his wife and three children in Oregon. He hid in Mexico using the identity of Michael Finkel, a journalist played by Hill.[3] The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically on April 17, 2015, in the United States. It explores the relationship that develops between the two men after journalist Finkel begins to meet with Longo in prison.


In 2001, Christian Longo, an Oregon man whose wife and three children have been discovered murdered, is arrested by police in Mexico, where he had been identifying himself as a reporter for The New York Times named Michael Finkel. Meanwhile, in New York City, Finkel, an ambitious and successful reporter, is confronted by his editors about a cover story he has written for New York Times Magazine in which he has used a composite character as the focus of his story, violating basic journalism principles. Finkel briefly attempts to defend his actions but is unsuccessful and is fired. He returns home to his wife Jill and struggles to find work as a journalist due to his public firing from the Times.

In 2003, Finkel is contacted by a reporter for The Oregonian, seeking his opinion on Longo's assumption of his identity. Unaware of Longo's case, Finkel is intrigued and arranges to meet Longo in prison. During their first conversation, Longo claims he has followed Finkel's career and admired his writing. Longo agrees to tell Finkel his side of the crimes he is accused of in exchange for writing lessons and Finkel's promise not to share their conversations until after the conclusion of the murder trial.

Finkel becomes increasingly absorbed with Longo, who is likable but evasive about his guilt. Convinced the story will be redemptive, Finkel visits Longo in prison and corresponds with him for several months. Longo sends Finkel numerous letters and an 80-page notebook entitled "Wrong Turns," which contains what Longo describes as a list of every mistake he has made. Finkel begins to recognize similarities between Longo and himself, their handwriting and drawing, and Longo's letters and Finkel's journals. As the trial approaches, Finkel becomes increasingly doubtful that Longo is guilty of the murders, and Longo informs Finkel that he intends to change his plea to not guilty.

In court, Longo pleads not guilty to two of the murders but pleads guilty to the murder of his wife and one of his daughters. Finkel confronts Longo, who claims he cannot share everything he knows because he has to protect certain people he refuses to name. Greg Ganley, the detective who tracked Longo down and arrested him, approaches Finkel and claims Longo is an extremely dangerous and manipulative man. He tries to convince Finkel to turn over as evidence all his correspondence with Longo. Finkel refuses, and Ganley does not press him for an explanation.

At the trial, Longo takes the stand and describes his version of the events in detail. After an argument with his wife about their financial situation, he claims he had come home to discover two of his children missing, one of his daughters unconscious, and his wife sobbing, saying she put the children "in the water." Longo says he strangled his wife to death in a blind rage. He says he thought his other daughter was dead at first but realized she was still breathing and strangled her as well because she was all but dead. Finkel's wife, Jill, watches Longo's testimony. As the jury deliberates, Jill visits Longo in jail and tells him he is a narcissistic murderer who will never escape who he is.

Longo is found guilty and sentenced to death. After he is sentenced, he winks at Finkel, who, to his shock and rage, realizes Longo has been lying throughout their conversations, using him to make his testimony more believable. A short time later, Finkel meets Longo on death row. Longo tries to convince Finkel he discovered his wife strangling their daughter and then blacked out, so he has no memory of the murders. Finkel angrily tells Longo he will not believe any more of his lies and will warn the judge, when Longo appeals against his sentence, of Longo's manipulative nature. Longo retorts by pointing out Finkel's success with his book about their encounters, leaving the reporter shaken.

Finkel reads a section of his book, True Story, at a promotional event in a bookstore. Taking questions from the audience, he imagines Longo standing in the back of the room. Finkel is unable to respond. Longo says if he has lost his freedom, Finkel must have also lost something.

A year later, title cards reveal that Longo admitted to killing his entire family. The final title card says Finkel and Longo still speak on the first Sunday of every month. Finkel never wrote for the Times again, but Longo has contributed articles to several publications from death row, including the Times.




Principal photography began in March 2013 in Warwick, New York and New York City.[4][5] Brad Pitt produced, along with several others, and Fox Searchlight Pictures distributed.[6]


Marco Beltrami was hired on July 18, 2014, to write the film's music.[7]

When Jill visits Longo in prison, she plays him a recording of "Se la mia morte brami" (If you desire my death), a madrigal by the Italian renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo. She explains that despite its beauty she can not hear it without remembering the facts of the composer's life: that Gesualdo murdered his wife, her lover, and their child.[8]


The film was originally scheduled for a limited theatrical release on April 10, 2015.[9] That release date was delayed for one week in favor of a wide release.[10]


True Story has received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 45%, based on 169 reviews, with an average rating of 5.44/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "James Franco and Jonah Hill make a watchable pair, but True Story loses their performances—and the viewer's interest—in a muddled movie that bungles its fact-based tale."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 50 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[12]


Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor: Drama James Franco Nominated [13]
Jonah Hill Nominated
Choice Movie Actress: Drama Felicity Jones Nominated


  1. ^ "TRUE STORY (15)". British Board of Film Classification. May 6, 2015. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  2. ^ "True Story (2015)". The Numbers. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
  3. ^ Nicholson, Max (February 27, 2012). "Hill, Franco Join Pitt for True Story". IGN. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  4. ^ "New Regency To Finance True Story With Jonah Hill And James Franco". March 29, 2012. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  5. ^ "First look at Jonah Hill & Felicity Jones filming True Story in NYC". March 21, 2013. Archived from the original on June 3, 2017. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  6. ^ "The Brad Pitt-produced movie True Story is filming in Warwick, NY this week". March 7, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2013.
  7. ^ "Marco Beltrami to Score True Story". July 18, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2014.
  8. ^ William B. Ober, "Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa: Murder, Madrigals, and Masochism" in Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, Vol. 49, No. 7, July 1973, pp. 634–645
  9. ^ "First Photos from True Story, Starring Jonah Hill and James Franco". December 16, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  10. ^ "Theatrical Movie Schedule Additions and Changes".
  11. ^ "True Story". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  12. ^ "True Story". Metacritic. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  13. ^ "WINNERS OF TEEN CHOICE 2015 ANNOUNCED". Teen Choice Awards. FOX. August 16, 2015. Archived from the original on August 18, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.

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