Saturday, December 4, 2010

Movie with Abe: All Good Things

All Good Things
Directed by Andrew Jarecki
Released December 3, 2010

There are plenty of kidnapping and disappearance cases from the annals of history that can serve as excellent source material for investigations, novels, and films. The story of Robert Durst, the son of a wealthy real estate tycoon, and the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack, in 1982, is certainly an interesting tale ripe for cinematic adaptation. Yet there’s a monstrous disconnect between the intrigue which this particular story should have provided and the finished product.

Touted as the “most notorious missing person’s case in New York history,” it would make sense for David Marks, the filmic version of Durst, to be seen frequently among or at least above people in his high-status perch as heir to a considerable fortune. Yet for some reason the film rarely shows him interacting with more than a person or two at a time, and therefore his solitary actions, however heinous they may be, don’t seem all that compelling since no one seems to care. Frequent flashes forward to his testimony during a more recent trial (2003 for Durst) are interwoven with elaborations on what (supposedly) really happened, and even then he doesn’t seem much like the center of attention.

The film tries to adapt a true story into an intriguing film, utilizing known, verifiable facts as well as considerable hearsay in the construction of a narrative to frame the actions of its protagonist into a comprehensible, if still unclear, timeline. The mix of fact and presumed fact is muddy, and it’s often not clear what really happened. That could be a strength for the film, but instead it comes off as a lackluster effort to play all sides when his guilt in his wife’s disappearance is obviously assumed given how the film depicts events. Almost from its start, “All Good Things” is bleak, and it only starts to get weirder as David descends into darkness and his wife Katie’s fate becomes ever grimmer.

In the lead roles are Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, an attractive couple who have both managed to play their share of bright and lonely characters. Gosling is given a thin, complicated but seemingly substanceless role, and like actors such as Christian Bale and Daniel Day-Lewis before him, he gives it his committed all, but there’s not nearly enough to work with to create a compelling turn. Dunst has similarly little on which to base her personality-free character, and her performance is forgettable. Overall, the film isn’t much more memorable, and suffers a lack of focus and clarity more than anything.


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