Front Row at the Movies
"True Story" Is About Liars And Murders
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Interesting that "True Story" is the title of a movie about lying.
Here, the lies are on both sides, the murderer who stole the identity of a New York Times reporter, and the journalist himself.
In December 2001 Christian Longo killed his wife and three children in Newport, Oregon, then skipped out to Mexico using the name of Michael Finkel.
When Finkel found out about this impersonation, he contacted the captured fugitive to find out why he picked him.
The answer was simple. Longo admired Finkel’s articles.
The irony is that Finkel had just been fired by the New York Times for fabricating a story (he’d combined subjects in a piece about cocoa plantation "slaves" in West Africa).
No self-respecting screenwriter would come up with such a coincidence, but it really happened and Michael Finkel wrote a book about it called "True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa" which was the basis of the script by David Kajganich for a new movie with a shortened name directed by Rupert Goold.
While other newsmen were shut out, Finkel and the murderer began a weekly hour-long conversation that resulted in more than a thousand pages of notes. While the men swore to be truthful with each other, they both lied.
As W.C. Hall, a journalist who covered the murder trial, observed, "Finkel came to realize that each was using the other. Seeing some of his own worst qualities magnified in Longo, Finkel was looking for a form of personal and professional redemption. Longo, meanwhile, was using Finkel as a sounding board for the persona and story he would present to the jury."
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
Both of them.
But Chris Longo is awaiting execution on death row. And Michael Finkel won a 2008 National Magazine Award for an article he wrote for National Geographic.