In 'All Good Things,' Many A Dark Development

Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst

A Dark Future: David Marks (Ryan Gosling) and Katie (Kirsten Dunst) embark on an initially happy romance; they marry and run a health food store, but then their lives skid into a downward spiral into abuse -- and possibly murder. Magnolia Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Magnolia Pictures

All Good Things

  • Director: Andrew Jarecki
  • Genre: Drama/Thriller
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

Rated R for drug use, language, violence, and some sexuality

With: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Philip Baker Hall

Truth just isn't as thrilling as fiction. Or so director Andrew Jarecki seemingly decided in the making of All Good Things, inspired by the story of the wealthy, troubled heir to a Manhattan real estate empire.

The tale of Robert Durst is undeniably bizarre, filled with disappearances, murders and nearly two decades spent in hiding under assumed names and an alternate gender. But the factual record contains more questions than answers.

In Jarecki's previous feature, the documentary Capturing the Friedmans, the director appeared unbothered by ambiguities. Indeed, the lingering uncertainties in the Friedman child-molestation cases forms the core of that film; unanswered questions are an essential part of what makes it so fascinating.

But in his first narrative feature, Jarecki, working with screenwriters Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling, decides to fill in the blanks. This requires a great deal of speculation (and the changing of most characters' names), and it turns the film into a CSI-like ripped-from-the-headlines crime thriller. What's most surprising, given the latitude provided by all that conjecture, is that the Durst — "David Marks" for the purposes of the film — who emerges is less a character study than a thumbnail sketch.

His story is told in flashbacks, with David (Ryan Gosling) narrating via his testimony in a Texas courtroom in 2003. But most of that testimony seems largely unrelated to the crime he's standing trial for. Instead, it takes the narrative back 30 years, to the larger mystery — still unsolved — of the disappearance of David's wife Katie (Kirsten Dunst).

The bulk of the film centers around their troubled relationship. It begins with the whirlwind romance that resulted in the rebellious young David's abandoning his position as heir to his father's business in order to open a health-food store in Vermont with Katie. But he's quickly guilted back into the family fold by his stern and manipulative dad (Frank Langella). Lost in the white-collar high-rise world, he begins spiraling deeper and deeper into his own disturbed mind. Gosling plays this with his usual brand of pained intensity, but without enough specificity in the script, all that smoldering introspection just becomes frustrating inscrutability.

Ryan Gosling i i

After David is lured back to his father's business, the unhappiness of his new corporate lifestyle catalyzes something dangerous in his personality. Magnolia Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Magnolia Pictures
Ryan Gosling

After David is lured back to his father's business, the unhappiness of his new corporate lifestyle catalyzes something dangerous in his personality.

Magnolia Pictures

It's Katie who's given far more dimension. She's slowly broken down by David's abuse, which increases in direct proportion to her growing independence. Dunst gives one of the most complex performances of her career, as Katie swings from a sunny, free-spirited disposition to confusion, depression and ultimately defiance. We're granted greater access to who she is: For the movie's strongest stretch, it seems to be more about her than David. That is, up until she disappears.

Jarecki attempts to connect a huge number of far-flung dots in Marks' history, creating a scenario that links all of the crimes and malfeasances that spring up: Katie's disappearance, two murders, a backroom deal between a district attorney and David's family, and an intimation of willful ignorance of Marks-family criminality on the part of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan — the one character, oddly, who isn't renamed for the movie's purposes.

But it all feels incomplete. There's plenty of information on what (might have) happened, but not much thought given to why. The film keeps circling back to David's troubled relationship with his father, and the trauma created when he witnessed his mother's suicide as a boy. But they're surface explanations for much deeper issues — more difficult issues —that the film seems less interested in exploring.

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