All Good Things. It’s a film you may not have heard of. It received only a limited release and wasn’t marketed too heavily. It has big enough names attached to it (Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella), but still, it would definitely be classified as a smaller film. The man behind the camera here is Andrew Jarecki, who you may remember from the fabulous documentary Capturing The Friedmans. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know that eerie feeling of unease the film had. Jarecki brings back that same feeling and crafts and pretty effective mystery/thriller.
The film is inspired by true events. The inspiration for the film lies in the story of Robert Durst, known as David Marks in the film. Ryan Gosling plays Marks. David Marks is the son of a very rich and powerful real estate tycoon played terrifically by Frank Langella. David ends up marrying a woman named Katie (Dunst) and the two start a life together.
Their life seems ideal at first. They yearn for a life in the country so they move to Vermont. Soon after, David is lured back into the big city (New York) by his father to help out with the family business. Katie isn’t pleased with David returning to the city but she has her own problems to deal with. She’s trying to get into med school. As Katie and David’s lives start to go in totally different directions, they start to grow distant.
Over time, David becomes violent and far too controlling. Their relationship worsens, becomes abusive and eventually Katie seeks divorce. She realizes that the way the Marks have set up their money, it’s near impossible for her to receive a settlement. This is a problem since she needs money for med school. Realizing she has to play hard ball, she sends a secret accounting ledger belonging to David’s father, to a Senator. If made public, an investigation into the family would be started and they’d be exposed for the numerous illegal activities they are involved in. It is around this point that Katie goes missing, and to this day, her body has never been found.
As mentioned before, the film is creepy. It starts off innocently enough but when David starts exhibiting weird behaviour, and things start to spiral down, it gets really weird and eerie. Part of the suspenseful atmosphere is due to Jarecki’s direction but a lot of it should be credited to Gosling’s wonderful performance. He completely becomes the character and he emits a very disturbing feeling.
Every time he shows up you’re on nerve. You never quite know what he’s going to do, and you always fear the worst. Constantly muttering to himself, excessive sharp blinks, cross dressing, dark looks and more, it’s safe to say David is an odd man and watching Gosling portray him becomes almost uncomfortable at times. Gosling is the anchor here and he does a great job.
David’s personality changes with the flip of a switch and he can go from calm and placid to violent and angry in an instance. Gosling completely captures this personality trait and it’s very effective in the film. David Marks is a very troubled man and he comes off as a very creepy character, giving the film more of an uneasy atmosphere.
Aside from Gosling, almost everyone else gives good performances, especially Langella who is always dependable. He’s menacing and intimidating as Sanford Marks and he has quite the screen presence, capturing your attention every scene he is in. Like Gosling, he puts you on edge in every scene.
Philip Baker Hall, who plays one of Marks’ friends later on in the film is also quite good and makes a nice addition to the cast. Dunst is the weakest by far, sauntering around, acting as merely a pawn in Jarecki’s game. She’s not terrible but she’s not entirely convincing either.
Unfortunately for the film, it’s not full of all good things, as one might suspect from the title. Jarecki throws in a number of cliches that make you just kind of sigh and go “oh, that again?”. I’m aware it’s inspired by true events but Jarecki plays up a few elements too much and they do cross into cliche territory. Jarecki also makes the mistake of blatantly picking sides. Durst was never actually charged with the murder of his wife, but in All Good Things, Jarecki clearly believes he should have been.
When it comes to David’s transition from normal to disturbed, it happens a bit too suddenly and takes the viewer off guard. We never really know why he suddenly snaps and becomes the way he does and it’s fairly bothersome. It gives the film a bit of a stilted feel and we kind of feel cheated. Why out of no where does he go from this nice guy to disturbed and violent? It’s choppy and cheap and it does hurt the movie.
Nevertheless, All Good Things provides for a chilling tale, that is no doubt subsidised by facts made up by writers Marc Smerling and Marcus Hinchey. The film comes off as a hybrid of factual research and a bit of imagination, which is fine, but I’m just saying, it shouldn’t all be seen as cold hard facts.
It’s dark material we have here but for the most part, it works. While the title may not ring true as there are some bad things, in the end, All Good Things proves to be a somewhat flawed yet ultimately satisfying thriller.
All Good Things is an effective and chilling thriller with strong performances from both its leads, making it worth a watch.