A melancholy tale of murder and how it pays to have a rich family if you're going to kill.
The Weinstein Company
Reviewed for MovieWeb by Harvey Karten
Directed By: Andrew Jarecki
Written By: Andrew Jarecki, Marc Smerling, Marcus Hinchev
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Philip Baker Hall, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kristen Wiig, Zoe Lister Jones
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 11/11/10
Opens: December 3, 2010
The title comes from the name of a Vermont health food store owned by a couple of young, happy people, at least happy for the time that they worked there before they moved back to the pressures of New York. It's also, methinks, an implicit statement, "All good things come to an end." The first half is lively, adventurous, varied and upbeat; the second half is slow, fitful, melodramatic, and melancholy. The acting is fine across the board, the makeup on the principal actor deserves awards, in fact if Saddam Hussein had hired Judy Chin's department to redesign his face, adding some freckles as they did to Ryan Goslin's skin, colored his hair as they did to age Mr. Gosling, the evil dictator could now be living in up in Martha's Vineyard as Steven Hackford.
"All Good Things" is inspired by the true story of a triple murder, or more accurately two murders that produced actual corpses and one involving a missing person who was almost certainly hacked up and fed to the fish. Nobody was convicted of murder, though one fellow was jailed for a far lesser charge, while the D.A. seemed to have been bought off from re-opening what is now a cold case. Writer-director Andrew Jarecki unfolds the action with enough respect for his audience to avoid overly melodramatic flourishes. There are no spurts of blood on the walls, cars do not explode, but in more than fair compensation we do see Kirsten Dunst's breasts in the shower.
Andrew Jarecki, who has garnered a reputation from his Oscar-nominated doc "Capturing the Friedmans" (which like "All Good Things" is about a Jewish upper-middle-class father and son involved in crimes, albeit in sodomy of underage males), dramatizes a New York real estate dynasty beginning in the 1980s. Inspired by the story of the Durst family, "All Good Things" looks first upon Sanford Marks (Frank Langella), who owns a chain of seedy hotels and bordellos in the Times Square area before those blocks were gentrified into theaters, collecting rents in cash and planning ultimately to develop the buildings into more respectable structures. Handsome David Marks (Ryan Gosling) has no intention of going into the business when he meets beautiful Katie McCarthy (Kirsten Dunst), marries her against the advice of his father, ("She'll never be one of us"), but when David perceives that Katie may want more for their lives than a grocery store in the sticks, he sells out and joins his dad's business, showing his wife off as a trophy.
David's character takes an about-face during the latter part of the story, as secrets from his past begin to dominate his life. His mother's suicide many years earlier prove to be a dominant black mark on his psyche, crushing his wife's desire for a child. Katie's wish for a more independent life as a medical student causes a rift in the relationship. And when David's best friend, Lily Rabe (Deborah Lehrman), makes demands, David's life unravels further.
Much of the tale is told as a back story at a trial in which David is accused of the murder of Malvern Bump (Philip Baker Hall), an lonely old man whom he had saved from eviction but who had turned against him after considering himself betrayed. At that point David is a much older man, made up so expertly with freckles, with a soft voice that would convince any jury, that we in the audience might almost be convinced that Jarecki had substituted a second performer. Ontario-born Gosling at 30 turned out a more dynamic role this year crosscutting time periods as the husband of Michelle Williams, a rocky marriage portrayed in Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine." He's a pleasure to watch as is Kirsten Dunst, or course, in this mature examination of the role of class and caste and how easily crimes can be covered up when you know the right people.
Rated R. 101 minutes. © 2010 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online