' ' Cinema Romantico: Forgotten Characters: Katie in All Good Things

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Forgotten Characters: Katie in All Good Things

My friend Andrew has a regular piece at his site, Encore's World of Film & TV, where he examines Forgotten Characters, those who made a significant impression despite minimal screen time. Today, I once again pay homage (rip him off).

Kirsten Dunst in “All Good Things”
as Katie McCarthy

No one has filled the template for callously creepy like Robert Durst, the subject of “All Good Things” where Ryan Gosling portrayed him as “David Marks”, willfully cross dressing and acting like the eccentric, asocial psychopath he apparently is. Of that performance, the real Robert Durst was quoted in a 2010 New York Times article as saying “Not as good as the real thing.” He also admits in the article, as he has many times elsewhere, to dismembering a corpse, though he did it out of self-defense, or so the courts ruled, and so it’s all cool. He does not, however, admit to any of the other murders for which he’s long been suspected though never convicted. These potential murders were the subject of “All Good Things”, which shows “David Marks” committing them, and of the recent six-part HBO documentary “The Jinx”, in which Andrew Jarecki (who directed “All Good Things”) interviews the real Durst as he re-explores the cases. “He answers questions about whether he hit Kathie (yes, he did—but, hey, it was the seventies),” wrote Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker, “with a candor that no sane or diplomatic individual would use.” Kathie is Kathie McCormack, Durst’s first wife who disappeared in January of 1982.

If there is a non-narrative issue with true-life investigation procedurals such as “The Jinx”, or Sarah Koenig’s ballyhooed NPR “Serial”, it is how the tragically deceased person or people that spawned these new inquiries can kind of unintentionally become forgotten. As “The Jinx” took center stage, so did Robert Durst, and through suspected murders he became a cultural touchstone. Everyone knows his name. Less mentioned, of course, was Kathie. Heck, even when Kathie got her due in “All Good Things” she still didn’t completely get her due because she wasn’t Katie McCormack – she was Katie McCarthy, transformed into Julia Roberts in “Sleeping with the Enemy” if Patrick Bergin was the main character.

“All Good Things” is recording a cool 33% at Rotten Tomatoes presently, and not undeservedly. It’s mostly notable for the real guy upon whom its main character is based being its only real champion of quality even though the film basically accuses him of murder. And that’s a shame, because hiding in plain sight is a magnificent performance by Kirsten Dunst as Katie.

It’s Kirsten’s movie, yet the movie doesn’t know it. It’s too enraptured by David Marks. He is heir to a family fortune, yet an eternal disappointment in his father’s eyes and clearly on the wrong side of crazy even if he manages, for a while, to suppress it. He suppresses it because of Katie who is outfit by Dunst with an authentic and amorous glow. She doesn’t want to change him. On the contrary, she sees something in him and takes great pains to dredge his temperament to bring it to the surface. She wants to help him. She wants to provide the belief that he’s never gotten from anyone else. And even when the film begins its inevitable descent into thriller territory, Dunst never lets her character succumb to Movie Spouse rubbish, sticking around despite his bizarro behavior solely so she can be offed.

The further he recedes into the demented catacombs of his mnid, the more she looks at him with a genuine loving confusion, not understanding what’s happened to him but wanting to. She stays when she should run because, goddammit all to hell, she cares. And once she is moved out of the picture, the picture ceases to be interesting, or even good. She was it all it had. She was all he had.

Kirsten Dunst gives Robert Durst, however briefly, the one characteristic that should be, frankly, impossible for such a self-satisfied callous creep to achieve – humanity.

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