True Story review – Kevin Hart takes on real-life problems

Kevin Hart plays a failed businessman who grows closer to a troubled young woman in this five-part series

Title: True Story

Year: 2017

Genre: Drama, Race

Director: Rupert Lloyd

Cast: Kevin Hart, Brian d’Arcy James, Chris Abbott, Lola Kirke, Marcia Gay Harden

Screenplay: Rupert Lloyd

Running time: 45 mins

TV broadcaster Al Jazeera recently announced their big-budget “true-story” documentary series about crime, religion and racism. It’s set to air on a monthly basis, though it is “difficult to track” an episode down (I mean, there is not even an episode number onscreen). Mostly, however, it’s always good to see old friends.

But what better company to have for the opening episode than the utterly singular Kevin Hart. He’s the lead and co-producer of this “epic tale of American opportunity”. It was filmed over the course of six weeks, with the intention of showcasing his acting and producing abilities.

Hart plays Scott, a thirtysomething on the verge of being out of work, who is at the park one day when a friend, Shauna (Lola Kirke), comes up to him and teases him about his skinny waist. She invites him to drive her away, as she goes off with her boyfriend Tommy (Chris Abbott). Scott immediately accepts, and they end up going out for a drink at the local bar. Scott likes Shauna, but now he doesn’t want to be linked to her or Tommy – he also needs some money to pay his rent. He gets a call from his girlfriend that she needs him to collect the electric bill from her house; but when he is no where to be found, she assumes he’s been home alone.

To that point, we’ve only seen Scott smile and shrug at Shauna, but as he gets into their car at her house, he reveals his secret: that he lost his job two years ago as a “Man of the House” at his old firm because of the way he was being paid. His high-paying job was by one of Al Jazeera’s sister television channels – not, as it turns out, the editorial arm, which produces not-quite-broadcasts such as this. (Al Jazeera’s news channels and the editorials they produce are not included in this project.) It’s just that his employer was letting the former Man of the House, who was paid to live in a $5-a-day apartment, stay out at all hours of the night. Scott was spending all of his time looking for work.

Scott’s real-life problems sound similar to the ones a lot of people face in the UK today, and Kevin Hart seems to be having a good time playing Scott’s “Rich but needs work” struggle. Among his friends, he’s an easy target for ridicule and catty jokes. But this is an intimate part of the story for Hart: he’s also building a relationship with Shauna, who is portrayed sympathetically as someone trying to adapt to a new life (one friend describes her as “the kind of grown woman who might get molested by her brother”).

This couple have made some bad decisions as a couple – Tommy says that he’s happy with Shauna, but he doesn’t like being with someone who’s never had a boyfriend. But Hart is more than able to handle his character’s pathos: he has the funny voices and a crack comedian’s skill for keeping a straight face. What makes True Story even more of a pleasure to watch is the fact that it’s a small portion of a new season of the Comedy Central show Ballers, and Hart plays his character as a powerful football agent. We hear from men (James Corden and Kevin Hart) who have abused their positions in the business world, and Hart has a chat with former college football player Charlie Ponzetti, now the president of the league. Ponzetti’s boastful, but he explains that every time he has someone fired and embarrassed for the rest of their lives he is reaping millions of dollars in retainer fees. “It’s good for business,” he says.

In this film, Hart – a big talent – proves himself a big character. He has the presence, energy and a boyish charm that puts even the movie-making business in a good mood. True Story looks like a winner.

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