Saturday, January 1, 2011

"All Good Things" falls short of good



All Good Things (2010)
101 min., rated R. 
Grade: C +

Arbitrarily titled after a Vermont health-food store, "All Good Things'" true-crime story about notorious murder suspect Robert Durst and the disappearance of his wife Kathleen McCormack is certainly an intriguing one. This dramatization alters the names, Durst now being “David Marks” and Kathie now “Katie McCarthy,” but recounts the non-fiction story between a trial-testimony framework. Unfortunately, this darkly fascinating material would've been better served in a more satisfying movie. From Andrew Jarecki, whose debut was the disturbingly powerful documentary "Capturing the Friedmans," this could've been called “Capturing the Dursts” if only Jarecki's first fiction feature actually captured its subject in the doc format. 

The first 80 minutes work rather well as a cautionary mystery about the person you share a bed with being a stranger. David (Ryan Gosling) meets Katie (Kirsten Dunst); he's the son of a wealthy real-estate mogul and she's a common girl putting herself through med school. They fall quickly in love and are married a year later, but David begins changing and Katie takes notice, until she goes missing less than ten years later. While never convicted of a crime connected to her going missing, David is suspected of two other murders. Gosling's performance is pretty aloof, and perhaps that's the point, but he doesn't make Marks a particularly interesting or undestandable enigma. On the other hand, in one of her most impressive pieces of work to date, Dunst is so vividly heartbreaking as Katie that the film flails after her character's absence. 

When the film's point-of-view shifts from Katie to David, it's hard to connect with David. In first-time feature writers Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling's script, Marks remains a cipher acting out with erratic motivations and without any clear transition; he goes from quiet man to psychotic with the flip of a switch. His posing as a woman (to avoid the spotlight) rings of Norman Bates but isn't very believable. Frank Langella plays cold and overbearing well as David's father but his performance here is disappointingly one-note. Also, notably playing against type is Kristin Wiig who gets to show equal dramatic and comic chops in a small supporting role as Katie's coke-snorting gal pal. "All Good Things" is a solid try and, despite factual evidence, otherwise proves that truth really is stranger (and more interesting) than fiction, so the results are frustratingly uneven. 

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