All Good Things, thriller, rated R, CCA Cinematheque, 2 chiles
IThis thriller, directed by Andrew Jarecki, is a fictionalized account of the story of Robert Durst, long a suspect in the unsolved disappearance of his wife. In the movie, David Marks (Ryan Gosling) and his wife-to-be, Katie McCarthy (Kirsten Dunst) meet in early 1970s New York City but soon move to Vermont to run a health-food store (the name of which provides the film’s title). The two feel mismatched from the start — Katie is vivacious, intelligent, and beautiful, whereas Marks is a brooding mumbler who seems to cherish his own darkness — but because on-screen text has already declared the story “true” in that it is based on something that really happened, there isn’t much room to argue with the credibility of the pairing. We learn that David’s father (Frank Langella) is wealthy and mean, a real-estate mogul who summons his son back from the granola wilderness and installs him as assistant slumlord to his Times Square properties. His mother, we are told via a courtroom-based voice-over device, died violently when he was young. Katie’s family, on the other hand, is warm and middle-class. They just want her to be happy.
In his first film, the critically acclaimed documentary Capturing the Friedmans, Jarecki used ambiguity to show “truth” can shift based on point of view. In that nuanced portrait of a family destroyed by sexual-abuse allegations, the subjects earnestly gave themselves over to the camera. The ambiguity came from the multiple perspectives provided inside and outside of the family. The cloying ambiguity of All Good Things at first enhances the movie’s surface tension but ultimately serves as an annoyingly simplistic shortcut for screenwriters Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling, who expect their audience to accept stoicism, cliché, and some vintage-looking film stock in place of emotional complexity, however deeply buried. The tone is so controlled that it’s nearly inert and, upon closer scrutiny, there just isn’t very much story there. Is David a sociopath or a traumatized abuse victim who never got enough love to become a whole person? Are the two mutually exclusive? In the case of the Friedman