James Franco and Jonah Hill step away from their mocking screen images to portray an accused child murderer and a disgraced reporter, respectively, in this exceedingly odd, queasy-feeling crime drama, based on a true story. At issue, over and above the question of who killed Christian Longo’s (Franco) wife and three children, is who’s hustling whom – con man Longo, or reporter Michael Finkel (Hill), who got fired from the New York Times for falsifying sources and is now writing a book about Longo. Both characters are liars, cheats, and perhaps worse, but in their scenes together we keep expecting the actors to break up laughing. Neither the direction of Rupert Goold nor the screenplay by Goold and David Kajganich, adapted from Finkel’s memoir, can overcome Franco and Hill’s trickster-ish screen presence. In the end it doesn’t matter whether True Story
is indeed true. That’s a problem (99 min.).