Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) wrote for the New York Times that is until it became apparent that he lied in a story about young African men being sold into Bondage on a coco plantation. The newspaper faced with a lie had no choice but to release Michael from his job. Leaving New York and heading back to Montana to be with Jill (Felicity Jones) Michael a well-known and respected writer tries every outlet to find new work but no one will ever trust a liar at least in the world of journalism.
When he discovers that Christian Longo (James Franco) has been taken into custody to a county jail in Oregon for the murder of his family Michael also learns that Christian was caught in Mexico posing not as himself but instead as Michael Finkel. It seems Christian has always followed Michael’s career and loved his writing. While in county jail Christian agrees to meet with Michael in person and tell his story of which Michael agrees to make it into a book. Christian agrees based on two conditions, one to keep the story quiet and exclusive and two for Michael to teach Christian how to write but most important that nothing can be published until after the trial. This was a once in a lifetime story for Michael so he agreed.
After several wrong turns Michael knows that everyone deserves to have their story told and thanks to an advance from Harper Collins Michael will tell Christian’s story about his wife Mary Jane (Maria Dizzia) and their three children Sadie (Charlotte Driscoll), Zachary (Conor Kikot), Madison (Stella Rae Payne) and the way in which they were murdered on December 17. In the end, Michael wonders if he was picked or used by Christian in a trial of double negatives. So ask yourselves this question, once a liar always a liar or can people change? Maybe people can never escape what they really are! Has Christian or more important has Michael? Does a sociopath really believe their own lies to be truth?
The film is nicely directed but straight forward with very little twists and turns. I kind of expected them but they never really came. The writing is truthful and honest yet intriguing but again more realistic and informative rather than explosive and telling except for the jail scene between Christian and Jill, her dialogue was quite the explosion the story needed for the big screen. The truth is of course important but to keep it from acting like a documentary and more of a box office hopeful there could have been a bit more crushing moments along the way. The score was good, the photography sufficient with decent character development but for some reason the story although interesting to see unfold never really peaked for me.
Franco was brilliant to watch although when faced with Hill in the beginning I expected them to break out into a funny dialogue since they seem a bit type casted that way together. Although after the first twenty minutes or so I could tell they were out to prove that they can be just as serious together in a film as funny and they proved it right. Both Franco and Hill were spot on with their characters. Even though Jones was not utilized much I have to tip my hat off to her since when she was on camera she was perfect. A nice supporting cast and some good extras and this true story became worthy of seeing in the theater or at least on DVD soon after its release since I don’t think it will be a major money maker at the box office. Written and enjoyed overall with two paws out of four by Jon Patch.