All Good Things

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 17, 2010

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Grade: C-

The first fiction feature from Capturing the Friedmans documentarian (and Moviefone co-founder) Andrew Jarecki may suggest rich kid Robert Durst murdered his wife. But it feels for him.

An extremely empathetic portrayal of a possible psychopath, All Good Things stars Ryan Gosling as thinly-veiled Durst stand-in David Marks, the resentful, pothead scion of a tryannical real estate mogul (Frank Langella, on husky-voiced villain autopilot). In the early ‘70s, David falls for hippie-ish Katie (Kirsten Dunst). Father disapproves, forcing David to take a soulless suit-and-tie Manhattan job. The two lovebirds drift apart and David goes from charmingly distracted to creepily catatonic and eventually to possible Patrick Bateman. Eventually Katie and David’s dog goes missing; cue associative shots of a mysterious figure in a wig and trenchcoat depositing fleshy bags into their weekend house’s lake.

It’s easy to see what attracted Jarecki to the subject: Like Capturing the Friedmans, All Good Things involves heinous acts perpetrated by the seemingly gentle and trustworthy. In Friedmans, the crimes of which the father and son were accused were bizarre and inexplicable, and the film offered no easy answers. By comparison, All Good Things simply wants to accuse someone of murder without getting sued. (The Durst clan is threatening a lawsuit anyway.)

Aesthetically, Jarecki’s blue-filter-heavy direction resembles a dramatization on Rescue 911, and is awash in rookie-filmmaker clichés (tension conveyed via boiling tea kettle, graduation conveyed through a shot of tossed caps, etc.) and period-on-the-cheap, including a soundalike of “Boogie Oogie Oogie” and a suspicious overuse of Steely Dan.

David’s condition, meanwhile, is explained away by pop psychology. No ambiguity here: David was made a monster by his monster father, who was unhappy his son married below his social caste and wouldn’t let him keep his failing Vermont health-food store. It’s the opposite of compelling, and our interest is lost well before the film leapfrogs to the ‘00s and puts Gosling in both funny old man makeup and a dress. Jarecki uses Gosling’s natural discomfort well, but by the second half the famously restless actor shuts down. When Gosling can’t even get excited about crossdressing, you know a movie is bloodless.

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