All Good Things (2010): A Stranger in Disguise

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Despite the name change, All Good Things is a fictionalised account of property tycoon Robert Durst who killed his next-door neighbour while he was living incognito as a mute woman. Proving that truth is indeed stranger than fiction, Durst’s wife disappeared mysteriously over 31 years ago and the only other person who might have known what really happened to her wound up dead after receiving a 9mm gunshot to the head.

Execution style.

Directed by Andrew Jarecki who has a fascination with Durst’s case and history, All Good Things is a slow movie. Its languid pacing is overshadowed by a sense of discord from the start of the film. The movie changes Durst’s name to the ironic moniker of Marks, this overly obvious ironic name change is just a few of the films problems. Such as relying on cliché’s and stereotypes to tell the story.

The Plot:

David Marks (Ryan Gosling) meets Katie (Kirsten Dunst) one of his father’s tenants when she complains of a leaky kitchen sink. He stops by, at his father’s insistence, to see if he can fix it. They are immediately attracted to one another and strike up a relationship. It’s a case of opposites attracting with Marks’ family is in the higher stratosphere of the monied gentry and Katie’s in solid middle class. After some growing pains, they marry and David turns his back on the family business. Their wedded bliss is short-lived, however, and after some interference from ‘poppa’ Marks (Frank Langella) they move back into the family fold. Their troubles begin almost immediately.

The Cast:

Ryan Gosling
Kirsten Dunst
Frank Langella
Sanford Marks
Lily Rabe
Deborah Lehrman
Philip Baker Hall
Malvern Bump

*Cast courtesy of IMDb.*

The Device:

Money can buy you anything and what you see is definitely not what you get.

Gosling and Dunst.
Gosling and Dunst.

The Twist:

There is no real twist here at all. Ryan Gosling as David Marks makes it apparent from his first appearance on-screen that there is something wrong with this character, hence, it comes as no surprise when we find out what he’s really like.

The Story:

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, Marks is based on the real-life story of Robert Durst. Durst’s first wife disappeared and has not been seen since. The only person who may have known anything about the disappearance (Susan Berman aka Deborah Lehrman in the film) was dispatched with a bullet as soon as a Prosecuting Attorney got in touch with her. Durst took to living as a woman (who was mute) and he murdered an elderly neighbour claiming self-defence,

The Characters:

David Marks looks and acts slightly off kilter from frame one. He’s obviously got some hidden issues that would probably be better off left alone. I’ve never been a huge fan of Gosling’s, but, he is a more than capable actor. In this film he delivers but the movies pacing and perhaps the “filler” plot let him and Dunst down a bit. All the actors gave good solid performances and delivered characters who were believable and flawed. Unfortunately, as in any film that is based on true events, a lot of things for the film had to be “filled in” and therefore felt contrived.

The Verdict:

Although the script does a pretty good job of filling in the blanks, as it were, the pacing of the action lets everything down. I’m not saying that it needed to race towards the finish line, but it needed a shot of adrenaline administered here and there to pick up the flow. It is oddly compelling to watch. I could not stop viewing it even when I got frustrated at some of the events and their dipped in molasses recounting.

I’d have to give this film a 3.5 out of 5 stars for Dunst’s performance and that of Frank Langella. With an honourable mention to Lily Rabe as Deborah Lerhman and the delightful Philip Baker Hall. It is not a film that I’d care to watch twice and once I’d checked out the “true” story the film was based on; I felt that ,quite possibly, the real events probably overshadowed this celluloid re-telling.

Don’t break a leg rushing to see this one.

*And a quick word of thanks to Kevin over at Claratsi for giving me the “bump” I needed to finally watch this film. You can check out his blog by clicking on the link above!*

The delightful Philip Baker Hall.
The delightful Philip Baker Hall.