ALL GOOD THINGS (Dir. Andrew Jarecki, 2010)
Andrew Jarecki, director of one of the best documentaries of the Aughts (CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS), stays in the world of non-fiction for his first narrative drama based on what's been called "the most notorious murder case in New York history."
Loosely based on the life on real estate mogul Robert Durst whose wife Kathleen McCormack mysteriously disappeared almost 3 decades ago, this film begins as a love story with overhanded ominous overtones.
Through a framing device of later court testimony providing narration we meet Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst as the couple, renamed David and Katie Marks, who meet in 1971 and seem initially happy, well, if she looks the other way when he mumbles to himself.
Gosling's powerful NYC property owner father played with suave menace by Frank Langella doesn't care for Dunst or his son's hippy lifestyle (the couple smokes joints and own a health food store out in the sticks in Vermont called "All Good Things").
Langella wants his son to be back in New York working for the family business - work than mainly involves shady money pick-ups from sleazy tenants. Gosling gives in to his father and the couple give up the country for the big city.
We learn from Lily Rabe as a outgoing friend of Gosling's that his mother had committed suicide in front of her son . This may explain why he demands that Dunst immediately get an abortion when she tells him she's pregnant.
The couple grow apart after that with Gosling in NY while Dunst stays at their weekend lake house pursuing a medical career.
Gosling has several violent outbursts aimed at his worried wife and after one particularly gloomy evening at their second home Dunst vanishes.
Throughout the film we see flashes of a dark figure hauling garbage bags that presumably have human remains onto a bridge in the middle of the night.
Despite the suspicion of many, Gosling is never charged with a crime and moves on until years later when he's charged with the murder of a cranky neighbor (the always welcome Phillip Baker Hall).
Though he claims self defense and is acquitted, of course, strong doubts linger.
The film gets a bit unfocused in its final third, but it was on shaky ground much earlier it must be said. Gosling is effectively cold and creepy and the film matches that demeanor beat by beat yet the overall take-away isn't one of eerie fascination.
ALL GOOD THINGS acts as if it has secrets to tell, but it really only has a few speculations up its sleeve.
It feels like a slightly glorified "made for TV" melodrama like those shown on the Lifetime network.
The supporting cast is capable - Dunst registers more realistically than she has before for me, and as her coke snotting best friend Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live) has a few moments as, I guess, light comic relief, but there isn't a lot of weight to this plodding procedural.
There have been great inconclusive films before such as David Fincher's ZODIAC and Jarecki's own doc CAPTURING THE FREIDMANS - films that passionately probe for the truth through a murky web of contradictions, but ALL GOOD THINGS simply doesn't have the hook or enough layers to make it anything more than a forgettable true crime thriller throwaway.