Famous art director for the theater, Rubert Goold, tries his hand at filmmaking. The storyline for his film debut True Story is a truth-or-dare thriller. It is an adaptation of a memoir, under the same title, from American journalist, Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill), who worked for the New York Times Magazine until 2002. Finkel tells of a relationship built between himself and a convicted murderer, Christian Lango (James Franco), who used Finkel's identity as an alias for a short time while running from the law. Lango was in prison when they met to discuss his case.
Goold and his co-writer, David Kajganich take the stories of the two men, who thrive on figuring out problems and long for redemption. Each man's narrative reveals an unusual creative process of storytelling. Almost friend-like. Lango hoped from their unlikely friendship Finkel would be compelled to fight for his innocence. Acquittal was Lango's goal. Finkel's gut told him Lango was guilty but he was oddly still obsessed with the identity theft as a tactic for endearment. Lango is convicted. Finkel gets more than he bargained for from Lango's explicit true confessions of his guilt.
An up-and-coming journalist for the New York Times Magazine, Michael Finkel is accused of fabricating a story he wrote for the magazine. Unreliable sources used to gather intel aid in bringing an untimely death to his professional career. He is fired for misrepresenting a portion of a serious investigation, put in print, on child labor in Africa. Devastated. Finkel slides into a deep depression. Unsure how he let his code of ethics falter, Finkel retreats into a world of solitude.
While listening to the news one day, Finkel hears about an American Oregonian extradited from Mexico who was on the run after being accused of murdering his wife and children. Finkel is shocked to learn that the captured man claims to be him, Michael Finkel, writer for the New York Times. Obviously, while escaping authorities this guy didn't get the memo of Michael's dismissal from the Times. Michael is curious as to why the accused man would want his identity. As a professional investigative journalist, Michael decides to meet the Oregonian, otherwise known as Christian Lango. Finkel gets an interview and works to understand Lango's story. Finkel writes a memoir, True Story about their encounter and the development of an unlikely friendship. Goold's film True Story (under the same name as the memoir) presents the process of relationship building between Finkel and Lango while the Oregonian waits for trial. A strange cat-and-mouse game of the wits transpire. Both parties seek justice for their inexcusable actions. The outcome is that one goes free and the other is restrained to confinement.