by Richard von Busack
IT IS comforting watching All Good Things: one feels a lot better about not being able to draw a bead on the film from seeing its previews. Andrew Jarecki (of the fascinating documentary Capturing the Friedmans) directs this fictionalized account of the Robert Durst case. A miscast Ryan Gosling plays David Marks, the recessive, tight-nerved scion of a New York real estate fortune.
On the one hand, David’s arrogant father (Frank Langella) is buddies with Sen. Daniel Moynihan. On the other, part of the family’s immense fortune depends on David acting like a bag man, picking up briefcases full of dollars as rent from the seedy hotels and grindhouse theaters of Times Square in the 1970s. Alienated by this dirty job (and haunted by the terrible death of his mother), David tries to find some happiness in his marriage with Katie (Kirsten Dunst). But her desire to have a family shakes him up; he starts to go more erratic, ever more violent.
Dunst can’t do much with this lamb-to-slaughter role; neither can Kristen Wiig in a serious part as Katie’s confident. Diane Venora gives the least-heated performance in this movie full of obsessives and victims. Playing a prosecutor, she’s seen leaning back, talking to an aide, while resting a nice leg on her desk. She looks sure of herself, in short, and we feel like something’s going to get solved when she’s on the case, but that doesn’t happen.
Taking place between the 1970s and the year 2000, All Good Things sprawls. Worse, Jarecki uses a patchwork of cinematic styles, none of which seem right: the scavenged home-movie flashbacks in the style of Oliver Stone or in the Venetian-blind-shaped shadows of a film noir. The conventional-thriller stylings of soundtrack artist Rob Simonsen and a few amoral Steely Dan tunes suggest that the best way to proceed would have been fast, dark and cynical, but All Good Things is soggy with pity; it stresses David as a damaged child who goes on to do damage.
This murder story got inflated. Jarecki considers it a record of a time, but the movie lacks atmosphere. The tale is too unusual to credit as an indictment of rich people’s privilege, plus it seems equally uneasy on both sides of the class divide. Ultimately All Good Things dies trying to be an American Tragedy in the Dreiser sense.