All Good Things

All Good Things starts as a nice little romance and slowly evolves into an effective mystery thriller.  Andrew Jarecki directs this moody dramatization of the most notorious missing person case in New York history.

Kirsten Dunst plays a beautiful young med student who thinks she’s found the perfect man in the handsome heir to a real estate fortune (Ryan Gosling).  By the time she realizes things aren’t all right with him, it’s already too late.  That’s because she made the mistake of marrying a man she hardly knew.  Easy mistake, right?  I mean, what girl doesn’t think Ryan Gosling is the perfect man?

From the film’s opening moments, we can sense that something is a bit off with Gosling’s character.  At first we think he might just have a minor social anxiety or a stick up his ass that desperately needs removing, but as we learn more about his mother’s tragic death we discover it’s far more serious.  It’s a masterfully nuanced performance from an actor who loves to take risks and doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves.

A lot of ambiguity exists in the relationship between Gosling and his father (Frank Langella) and the work they do.  Some shady business practices are suggested, but Jarecki never brings it to the forefront.  Gosling’s creepiness is aided by some sharp business suits and, in the later years of this three decade story, by some outstanding work from the makeup team.

Kirsten Dunst also delivers the best performance of her career by far.  We’re scared for her.  And scared with her.  She’s trapped.  Neither she nor the viewer has any clue what her husband is capable of.  His cold stares tell us nothing, but at the same time that’s all we really need to know.

His wife’s disappearance forces Gosling to become a recluse, with a strange old man played Philip Baker Hall as his only acquaintance.  The director’s only previous feature is the Oscar-nominated documentary Capturing the Friedmans. Documentaries aren’t all that different from narrative films in that the director almost always presents his case in a one-sided manner.  There’s a clear motive.  Objectivity is implied, but rarely exists.

I haven’t seen Capturing the Friedmans but All Good Things is highly subjective in its slant against Robert Durst, the man who inspired the film.  Strangely enough, Durst has said he liked the film.  Or maybe it’s not so strange when you consider the source.

All Good Things is now playing in select theaters and On Demand.  I watched it via the latter, which sparked the idea for this article for RopeofSilicon.

8/10

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