When “The Social Network” opened, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg came out and claimed he didn’t mind the mixed portrait of him found in the movie. And in fact, it’s hard to see a downside for Zuckerberg in that film, even if other characters keep calling him a variation of the word “jerk.”
It’s difficult to imagine that the real-life character portrayed in “All Good Things” will be quite as sanguine, and yet The New York Times has reported his shrugging response to this film, a reaction that supports the movie’s portrait of him as a privileged sociopath.
This washed-out drama is based on the story of Robert Durst, a man from a wealthy New York family whose wife vanished in 1982. The case has not been solved, although Durst was convicted of a later bizarre crime (acquitted because of self-defense in a murder, he was jailed for evidence tampering after he chopped up the body).
“All Good Things” introduces us to David Marks (the names are changed), played by Ryan Gosling. Although he has a slightly peculiar air, we might chalk that up to his reluctance to enter the real-estate business his father (Frank Langella) built, a business with a shady side.
Instead, David takes off and marries Katie (Kristen Dunst), who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. Their winsome dream of running an organic grocery in Vermont is doomed by the Marks family’s gravitational pull toward aristocracy and power.
Director Andrew Jarecki is best known for his documentary, “Capturing the Friedmans,” and that might explain why “All Good Things” meanders along for a while, the way a documentary can when it knows it’s going to get to its point eventually. This pays off in the details, like the way David’s father pointedly asks Katie’s mother to pay half the bill when the parents take their children out to a celebratory engagement lunch. He could afford to buy the restaurant they’re in, but that’s the kind of person he is.
Things begin to tighten when the Marks marriage turns sour, and then the big mystery takes center stage: What happened to Katie Marks?
Jarecki isn’t shy about offering certain scenarios, one of which paints Marks as the probable killer, aided by a friend (Lily Rabe), who lives to regret her involvement.
Things get really baroque toward the end, but oddly enough, the early reels are what you remember. The non-actory performance by Kirsten Dunst is impressive, as is her convincing interplay with Gosling (he’s always up for playing heels), convincing when they’re courting and when they’re fighting.
So, the movie has good things, but after a while it seems to be going in circles, and no definitive solution to the unsolved case is forthcoming. Maybe that’s why “All Good Things” feels like an unfinished draft, with a future update, perhaps, tying together the loose ends.
“All Good Things” ½
A true-crime case (of the unsolved variety) comes to fitful life: A New York rich boy (Ryan Gosling) marries a blue-collar girl (Kirsten Dunst) in the hopes of escaping his family. But the gravitational pull is too strong, and murder is on the horizon. Good understated performances by the leads, but the film has an unfinished quality despite the weird true story.
Rated: R for violence, nudity, language
Showing: Seven Gables