Friday, January 7, 2011

All Good Things

Although the film is based on the real events surrounding the life of Robert Durst, the main problem with the screenplay by Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling is how ridiculous the events appear when recreated on film.

What starts as a love story and tense drama about a troubled son of a real estate broker devolves into a thriller. Then the thriller turns into the kind of cinematic disaster nobody wants on their resume. All Good Things may be based on a real story but it plays like bad fiction.

There's something off about David Marks (Ryan Gosling) the first time we meet him, but that's not enough to stop the charming Katie (Kirsten Dunst) from falling for him. Needled by his father's (Frank Langella) disapproval David and Katie leave the tranquil health food store in Vermont so David can act as the bagman for the family business collecting cash from various seedy Times Square enterprises which the Marks famly owns.

Tensions begin to rise as Katie suspects there's far more wrong with the man she loves than she ever thought possible. David has a violent temper and his mind at time appears fractured, although the world schizophrenia is never used it's obviously implied. That the film never makes an attempt to adequately diagnosis David's condition, or the reasoning his actions (other than mention the traumatic suicide of his mother), is but one of the film's problems.

Another problem is the movie's attempt to cover 30 years in less than two hours. The script follows the couple from their happy early days to David's violent outbursts and well-past his wife's disappearance and into his life of seclusion. There's simply too much going on here, including David's struggles with his father and work, the police investigation into the Marks family, the corrupt Senator, the hot shot new DA (Diane Venora) out to make a name for herself, and David's trial which presents the story but itself isn't covered. That's quite a bit, and much of it isn't handled with the necessary care the the David/Kate relationship is given.

When Dunst is on camera the film feels grounded, but with her character's disappearance the story moves further and further off the rails introducing multiple murders and even a subplot involving crossdressing. Those who enjoyed Gosling's performance in Lars and the Real Girl know that he's capable of playing a troubled internalized character. Unlike Lars, however, the script can't find a way to let us in to what the character is thinking or feeling (other than his obvious unresolved daddy issues).

There are some strong performances here. Although he's not doing anything new, Gosling performance is solid. Langella, Lily Rabe, and Philip Baker Hall are all well-cast in supporting roles. And Kristen Wiig has a couple of great scenes with Dunst as her character's best friend. But it's Dunst, who has to play the gamut of emotions from young love to scared for her life, who steals the show.

Although there is some foreshadowing, the film violent shifts from drama into thriller and almost immediately begins to lose its footing. With the disappearance of Dunst's character the script becomes an lesson in how to implode a perfectly good drama with unnecessary twists (even if some of the events may be true).

All Good Things is a trainwreck, and that's sad. It wastes talented actors and a strong set-up by allowing itself to become little more than a clich├ęd thriller. Dunst performance is worthy of note, but the rest of the good things don't add up to nearly enough to recommend.

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