All Good Things
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Wiig, Frank Langella, Diane Venora, Zoe Lister Jones, Nick Offerman, Trini Alvarado
Rowan University, 10
“I appreciate smart, but you know man, in this game, you gotta have more than that.” – Stringer Bell, The Wire
All Good Things
Review By: Dariel Figueroa
Ryan Gosling is amazing at playing quiet but strong and understated roles. Don’t believe me? Watch Half Nelson and try not to be blown away by the breadth of emotions he conveys with his teeth-clenching, artery popping facials. Watch Fracture and see how the young stud holds his own against the mighty talent that is Sir Anthony Hopkins. Watch Lars and the Real Girl and…wait a minute, don’t see that one. Despite perhaps a hiccup or two along his path to silver screen immortality (a forgivable offense of course), Gosling is amassing quite the nice portfolio of films. He knows how to pick good scripts and the man-child knows how to deliver tantalizing performances, a feat he does with a relative easiness that displays his potential for superstardom.
In All Good Things, Gosling stars as Robert Durst, an heir apparent of a wealthy Ney York family whose influence and real estate business helped build Times Square. Robert, the black sheep of a family of New York aristocrats, is permanently disturbed by the suicide of his mother, which he witnessed. Gosling meets Kathy McCormack (Kirsten Dunst) and instantly the two become smitten; charmed by each other’s bumbling sort of nature they hit it off and soon enough they become married. After their marriage, Robert and Kathy set off to the country to manage a small health food store called, All Good Things. Things don’t go as planned though, and soon the couple’s bond begins to disintegrate. A loose and unwound Robert doesn’t take the dissension well and soon enough violence and crime seeps into the seemingly perfect life of the Durst’s.
Mark Smerling (writer/producer) and Andrew Jarecki (director/Capturing the Friedmans) do a Dan Brown as they meticulously research all the facts surrounding this true crime story whose tale began in the early 70’s. The movie is inspired by the disappearance of McCormack, but the film’s narrative is mostly told through Durst as he testifies on the stand during the murder trial of Morris Black. Confused yet? Well truth is stranger than fiction. After the disappearance of McCormack, which Durst is never tried for, Durst concedes to a life of exile. During this, Durst meets Black and they engage upon a heinous relationship, one fueled by cross-dressing, murder, and eventually body-disposal.
Jarecki and Smerling have done a lot here to make the film authentic as possible. In one of the DVD extras (the special features on this DVD are very interesting and worth the time to engage), they state how they did their best to make this experience as realistic as possible through the use of video interviews with all participants involved. They even went as far as to weave some of the dialogue derived from these interviews into the film’s dialogue. This authentic effort is valiant
But, let’s be realistic here, no one is going to the movies because we want the facts straight and hard. We’re not investigative journalists searching for the truth after we see a picture, basing the film’s merits on whether or not the facts match up with the Wikipedia page we retrieved later that night. No, we want entertainment and perhaps Jarecki and Smerling can learn a lesson from Truman Capote.
The creator of the “creative non-fiction” genre, Capote had no one to model himself after. He embedded himself in unknown territory, treating the tale of a home invasion with Hollywood type fashion, eschewing some hard facts for the sake of story. I understand the need for Jarecki’s penchant to present reenactments; his is a pedigree whence wrought from the iron cauldron dubbed Documentaries. It makes sense for him to need the justification of facts. But, this is the picture business, buddy. We don’t fact check here. In fact, the more ridiculous your picture is, the more the geese will flock to it. Had you presented your picture as a weird, cross-dressing, murder filled spectacle, perhaps one would have been more inclined to see it for they would have know what was in store. Let me tell you where you went wrong, Jarecki.
How can you categorize this film? It certainly beings as a romance, a strong one actually. Dunst and Gosling have amazing chemistry. In fact, their chemistry is so strong I wish they would have carried this film in another direction away from the script, perhaps a love story about two preening, twenty-something’s lost in a post-grad world full of deceit and uneasiness. Alas, that is not the formula and we have to stick to the facts. The facts are that Gosling is absolutely bat-shit crazy; he talks to himself and coils away into the darkness when presented with social situations. Gosling is, of course, incredible in his depiction of Robert Durst; he continues to be one of the best actors of this generation. And, speaking of great actors, one would be amiss to not mention the great Frank Langella. Langella continues to be one of the best character actors ever, moving with a swarthy viscous akin to melted rubber seeping down a New York City grate, he rarely has to move his brow in order to radiate his sentiments like sunrays through closed eyelids. This master is one whose work I enjoy immensely.
You see, there are many elements that are redeemable in this film. Gosling is very good, Langella is always Langella (that’s a good thing), and Kirsten Dunst even steps up