' Cinema Romantico: All Good Things

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

All Good Things

This Andrew Jarecki film, currently showing in Chicago and a few other big cities, is based loosely on the sordid real life tale of Robert Durst, an heir to a New York real estate fortune, whose fetching wife disappeared in 1982 and remains classified as a Missing Person to this day. Loosely is quite apropos and this is because if the facts of the case as presented by Jarecki in the case of David Marks, subbing for Durst, are to be believed than it is rather unbelievable that any reasonable jury could have acquitted Marks/Durst of murder.

The film: Young David Marks (Ryan Gosling), chooses against his imposing father, Sanford's (Frank Langella), wishes to pull down millions by nefarious means and live a life of luxury by instead marrying aspiring medical student Katie McCarthy (Kirsten Dunst) and opening a decidedly un-luxurious health food store up in Vermont called (ahem) All Good Things. Ah, but this idyllic life cannot last. Sanford visits and threatens to cut the supportive money chord with his son and so his son must finally relent and enter the family business as a bag man which translates to good money and a nice apartment and a beautiful lakeside retreat and so on and so forth but also translates to David, still troubled from having witnessed his mother's suicide as a child, and prone to fits of talking to himself (which might be the scariest thing in the film), to slowly come unglued and not merely become a problematic spouse but a horror movie worthy monster who stands ominously behind Katie, asks if she's had anything to eat and then fixes her a supper on which they dine by eerie candlelight as a storm rages outside which is, like, Tactic #17 in the I'm-Gonna-Murder-My-Wife handbook and makes the viewer wonder why Katie did not flee the scene before she went "missing".

Quotation marks are essential. Nothing here is really all that mysterious. On the night Katie goes "missing" a neighbor wakes next door and notices a light on in the Marks' basement where a shadow appears to be doing something quite sinister though this neighbor is never shown being interviewed by authorities. There are no ambiguities whatsoever in relation to guilty or innocent. 

Jarceki's film, despite its basis on real material, is a basic procedural that fails to involve or establish any atmosphere beyond the cliched.  No larger themes emerge from the narrative and it suffers terribly from the fact that 1.) No real reason is established as to why Katie would remain by David's side and 2.) Why anyone else would allow Marks to weave them into his web. As always, "it happened in real life" does not count as a suitable answer.  The whole Parental Neglect angle feels forcefed to cover up for the lack of skillful storytelling.  The film is far more invested in the case than its characters and so it feels like a glossy episode of "Law and Order." (Oh, hey, did you know the real life case of Robert Durst was used in an episode of "Law and Order"? Why is that not surprising?)  Seriously, you have a main character who winds up fleeing the scene and dressing like a woman, which should be strange and terrifying (see: "Psycho") and instead just feels awkwardly off-putting.

If anything, "All Good Things" suggests the investigations involving the disappearance and the murders were handled by a bunch of incompetents, as if this film's sole intent was to function as a well-produced crusade to re-draw attention to these cases.  And that's why if I was Andrew Jarecki, I'd be paranoid Durst was gonna come after me.

1 comment:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Thanks for pointing me towards your review. This movie just has me shaking my head - from the title which is so on-the-nose and yet is horribly wrong for the film to the absolutely lack of subtlety in - well, everything. I mean, considering Jarecki seems like someone interested in making at least inventive films this just seems weird.

The real cinch, though, was the end when they said they said the guy who the movie was based on "liked" the movie. I was like, whaaaaaaaaaat? After that movie?