All Good Things (2010)

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst as a troubled couple in 'All Good Things'

Written by Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling

Directed by Andrew Jarecki

Starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella and Kristen Wiig

From Andrew Jarecki, the maker of the harrowing, personal documentary Capturing the Friedmans, comes this smorgasborg of a film. Part political thriller, part murder mystery, All Good Things has lofty ambitions but takes a meandering, unfocused path. It’s a loose adaptation of the true life story of Robert Durst, a wealthy scion who took a strange, meandering life path, where if I explained it, it would give away the whole movie. Look him up on wikipedia.

As for the film, if it has a problem, it’s pacing. Since it takes place over many decades and because certain events in the film were deemed crucial to the story but are sometimes spaced years apart, the time jumps are funky. It isn’t your average biopic with a 15 minute intro with a child actor playing the adult version or anything. The story comes together piecemeal style, with fragments of time shown to give the viewer a rough idea of how events played out, eschewing meticulous detail for overviews and truncated accounts. It is like one long montage sequence, exasperated by a score that overtakes most scenes. I call this the Dark Knight effect.

From the first scene you never get a whole scene, just a series of interludes, offering hints of story. There are a few sequences that add just enough depth to the characters so that the film makers can develop mystery and intrigue, but we never get beyond that. The entire film chugs along like this, fragmented. This is obviously a stylistic choice, done to handle a sprawling story, of which no one element is particularly epic in nature.

This is the best Dunst has ever been, however. I thought it was her least actor-y performance I’ve seen her in. Her most soul-baring role, if you’ll pardon the cliche. Ryan Gosling is good, too, though not remarkable. His performance is a little wooden and self-serious. Langella does another variation on his crusty New York financier mogul, a role he does in his sleep. Kristen Wiig reveals a side to her acting talents previously unseen. I think she should go out for serious roles more often. The film drags at times, with vague ominous scenes that suggest many different things but offer no explanations or real hints of story direction or character motivations.

All in all this experience held a lot of potential without a substantive pay off, leaving me, as a viewer, empty and let down by the sum of the whole. A valiant and well-guided effort, but with a script that was in desperate need of a re-write.

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