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All Good Things

Strong performances from Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst don't save this ripped-from-the headlines drama

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2008:06:02 15:25:10

All Good Things

Directed by Andrew Jarecki

Opens Dec. 17 at the Senator Theater

Stoner scion David Marks (Ryan Gosling) is already late for a party thrown by his master-of-the-universe Manhattan real estate mogul father (Frank Langella) when he meets down-to-earth, young Katie (Kirsten Dunst). He brings her along, and when David introduces his date, he discretely maneuvers her in front of himself, like a human shield against his father’s imperious stare. It’s just one tiny example of the exquisite character acting that typifies All Good Things, the first non-documentary feature from Capturing the Friedmans director Andrew Jarecki. If only the whole of the movie was as deft or effective.

All Good Things is “inspired” by events in the life of real estate heir Robert Durst. In this telling, David and Katie get an idyllic start on a life together in early ’70s New England before David is lured back to New York to work for his father. Having apparently married David without really knowing him, Katie is unpleasantly surprised by his dark moods, his unwillingness to have children, his traumatic past, and his mounting icy hostility. The couple’s marriage eventually freezes over, and one night Katie disappears. David then disappears and reappears in drag, living incognito as a mute woman in Galveston, Texas, where he befriends a lonely retiree (Philip Baker Hall). The bloody, befuddling outcome would make suspended disbelief impossible if it wasn’t rooted in actual events.

Jarecki’s movie enjoys an enormous advantage in having Gosling and Dunst in the leads. The former remains an exquisitely focused actor, and what he does here as the closed-down David—subtle even when rocking blue eyeshadow—would be a career performance in a less stellar career. Meanwhile Dunst digs into some of her best work ever, making Katie’s good soul evident, her gullibility natural, and her bitter heartbreak convincing.

But for an ostensibly true story, All Good Things manages to hit an extraordinary number of false notes, and that feels largely due to Jarecki’s often adroit but uneven direction. A honey-toned montage of David and Katie’s early life running a health-food store clashes with later revelations that make it seem like the relationship would have rotted under any circumstances. A suspenseful scene of Katie searching David’s office for evidence of shady dealings to gain some leverage in a divorce gets the pulse pounding, but the portentous handling of the night of her disappearance tips into melodrama. Maybe there’s just no reconciling the uncanny facts of Durst’s life, even with poetic license, but Jarecki doesn’t pull it off here, leading to a well-made misfire.

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