Biopic/based on a true story month continues, along with the unofficial theme of dirtbag men doing dirtbag things. Bonus(?): one of the stars of this film is a dirtbag both onscreen and IRL.
Disgraced journalist Mike Finkel explores an unusual murder case involving a man who claims to be Mike Finkel.
Mike Finkel, renowned New York Times journalist, is eager to see his latest piece published. The story highlights the abuse of modern-day slaves in regions of Africa. When Mike merges the stories of 5 different young men into a fictional amalgamation, it turns out his eagerness is misplaced. Caught out for his fabrications, Finkel is fired and unlikely to find work as a journalist ever again.
Returning in defeat to Montana and his archivist(!) wife Jill, Mike seemingly resigns himself to a quiet life in the remote but beautiful mountains. There, he learns of a rather bizarre story he’s unknowingly connected to.
A man named Christian Longo has been arrested in Mexico for the murder of his wife and young children by drowning. The twist? He has been claiming to be Mike Finkel of the New York Times.
Intrigued, Mike begins corresponding with Christian, ultimately traveling to Oregon to meet the identity thief. Christian has long admired Mike’s work and feels he knows the journalist through his writing. Though he protests his innocence, Christian is seriously contemplating a guilty plea as he believes no one cares enough to uncover the real truth. Challenge accepted. Mike decides to investigate Christian’s case for himself and cover the story as his big comeback.
As he works on the story, Mike becomes increasingly convinced that Christian is innocent and the two develop an understanding. Christian refuses to tell the full truth as he claims to be protecting someone. However, Christian is also weird AF and makes super creepy phone calls to Jill.
When the trial begins, Christian reveals financial troubles that caused problems in his marriage, and ultimately pleads guilty to 2 of the 4 murder charges. What does the guilty plea mean?
2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
To recap: slightly scummy dude wants to believe much scummier dude is telling the truth despite statistics and evidence suggesting the contrary.
This story doesn’t come across as particularly remarkable even with the unique relationship between its subjects. I will give credit to this for avoiding a sensational retelling, but everything comes across like a TV movie with the pretty ordinary plot and lack of interesting roles here. For fuck’s sake, give Felicity Jones something to do!
I don’t get how the Mike Finkel in this story is a journalist; all he does here is make up stories and naively believe a murderer who enjoys his writing. Like I get that the criminal justice system is fucked and frequently wrong, but a horrifyingly high number of women are murdered by their partners. All you have to do is look up the stats, dude.
However, the main problem for me is the lack of depth to Mike and Christian’s relationship. The film attempts to convey a connection between the two, but it doesn’t seem to be especially interesting. Though the two aren’t really friends, the film does intentionally tell us they are still in touch yet doesn’t do enough to convey why. And after the creepy phone calls to Jill, Mike just looks more like a scumbag for maintaining their weird relationship.
Maybe the book is better?