Baby Goose Murdered by Tedium
In All Good Things, Andrew Jarecki’s follow-up to the remarkable dysfunctional family documentary, Capturing the Friedmans, the director mines similar dark family dysfunction in a drama inspired by the events in the life of blueblood fuck-up Robert Durst. Unfortunately, in the life of Durst, Jarecki doesn’t have as much to work with as he had with The Friedmans, hard to believe when you’re dealing with a man suspected, but never convicted, of murdering three people, including his wife.
All Good Things is an excruciatingly tedious movie; it’s suffocating in the worst kind of way, like being left alone in a doctor’s office for two hours with nothing but a five-year old Popular Mechanics that you read the last time you were there. It’s not the performances. They’re as good as what you’d expect from Ryan Gosling, Frank Langella, and even Kirsten Dunst. The problem is that Jarecki crawls like a crippled toddler stuck in molasses from one point to the next, and given all the time he spends exploring David Marks (the character based on Furst), it’s surprising what little connection you have with him by the end of the film. It’s a cold, dispassionate depiction of a man raised by a tyrannical real-estate tycoon scored to within an inch of its life by bleating violins that jarringly serve to underscore what little is actually going on onscreen, like someone walking to the supermarket to the Inception score.
The interesting part about these events was the actual disappearance (read: murder) of Durst’s wife in 1982, a missing persons case that was reopened in 2000, followed shortly thereafter by the death and dismemberment of a senior citizen that Durst was suspected of committing in Texas (Not to mention Durst’s time as a fugitive, which isn’t even covered here). Unfortunately, the majority of the film deals with the courtship and then marriage of the Furst and his future wife, arguably the least compelling aspects of this entire sensational saga.
Marks — whose name is changed like everyone else in the film except, strangely, New York Senator Patrick Moynihan — is the elder son to real-estate developer (and slumlord) Sanford Marks. He has no interest in taking over his father’s business. He’d rather move to Vermont with Katie, a woman of a lower socioeconomic class that David meet cutes while fixing a leak in her apartment. They no sooner fall in love, marry, and open a natural food store that they name All Good Things before Sanford shames Marks into returning to the New York real-estate business, where his resentment combined with his adamant refusal to have children drives a wedge between he and Katie. Matters are not helped by his Marks’ jealousy, his troubled past (he saw his mother commit suicide) or his Daddy issues. Cue classic domestic violence scenarios: Marks does something horrible, she runs away; he pleads with her to come back, and he does something horrible again, a cycle that continues to repeat itself until your patience is so tested that you wish she’d just disappear already.
She does, and then you immediately regret her absence, as Dunst’s character is the only real spark in the film. The story picks up 18 years later, after the case is reopened by a district attorney in an election year, which is when Marks transforms from a quiet raving man who occasionally talks to himself into an eccentric who cross-dresses to avoid recognition. The film, likewise, morphs from a regular boring movie into a weird boring movie when Marks forms a relationship with the old man (Philip Baker Hall) in his building, receives blackmail threats from an old girlfriend, and starts taking long jogs in a woman’s wig. It’s here where Jarecki weaves in his own theories about what happened to Durst’s, er, Mark’s wife.
All Good Things is framed by Marks testimony in a 2003 murder case, a narrative shortcut that fails to shorten the movie. Gosling does well with what he has to work with, and it’s a testament to Gosling’s immense acting ability that, by midway through the movie, that someone else was playing this David Marks character barely registered. But the direction that Jarecki takes sucks the life out of the character. He’s so cold and emotionally detached that it’s almost impossible to care, and with no one else to align yourself with, All Good Things drips along to an unsatisfying conclusion that manages to be anticlimactic despite all the tedium that precedes it.