Title: All Good Things

Director: Andrew Jarecki

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Lily Rabe, Philip Baker Hall, Michael Esper, Kristen Wiig

Flashing the words, “Based on a true story” is really an act of genius by studios. They already have moviegoers intrigued. Plus, they can pass off the blame for lackluster entertainment – if any – on the story. You know, “We just stuck to the source” excuse. With that said, the “Based on” portion of the phrase, is the keywords to dissect here. Studios will use this catch-phrase even if they altered 99% of the original story. One would like to think they refrain from this practice, but technically, they’re justified in using it.

So take a guess how the 101 minute feature All Good Things started. Its subject matter revolves around the infamous 1982 missing person case in New York involving Robert Durst. For purposes of this film, they rename his character as David Marks. The flick tackles multiple sub-plots that are similar to a story ripped from a mystery novel. Here’s the facts…Delivered in the adaptation that is.

David Marks (Ryan Gosling) is in his late twenties and is heir apparent to the Marks Real Estate empire. Started by his grandfather and brought to success by his father Sanford Marks (Frank Langella), the corporation owns many of the slum properties in 1973 New York City. Everyone in the Marks family embraces their heritage and works for the corporation. David doesn’t want anything to do with the family business but his relentless father hopes to change that one way or another. While his father continues to belittle him and question his direction in life, David meets Katie (Kirsten Dunst) and they click right away. Together they open a small food store in Vermont, much to the dismay of the politician-like Sanford Marks.

Eventually, the persistent Sanford gets his way and David joins the family business. Money is flying in and he and Katie are living the good life. David starts buying Mercedes and lake houses which brings back his old friends he grew up with. Who are all entrenched in the disco lifestyle. Specifically Deborah Lehrman (Lily Rabe). Deborah is David’s longest friend and knows all the family secrets. As the years go by, Katie sees a change in David while he continues to be a drone for his father. Her reaction is to start making changes in her own life. David is clearly not comfortable with Katie’s new found passions and he begins to have this Jekyll and Hyde persona. Katie wants to help but David is becoming to unstable and what he may do has the entire family on edge.

In keeping this a mystery, this is as far as the plot summary will go. If one is familiar with the story, this adaptation definitely hits the broad strokes. Of course the writers took some liberties in detailing the daily life of David and Katie (they had no choice as you will see). And the hook of the “Based on a true story” will have one wanting to see how this played out. Actually, it’s still playing out today. All that can be said is that the incident occurred in 1982, yet the case was re-opened in 2001 due to another incident. When the script finally reaches 1982, the flick really shines all the way until the, “Where they are now” ending credits.

Getting to the 1982 moment can be a bit of a drag though. Mainly because one of the main characters has many inconsistencies. The “David Marks” character doesn’t really make sense. He is introduced one way and his dialogue during his first initial meeting with “Katie” – along with the early interaction with his father – establish his persona. As the story unfolds, the choices he makes aren’t in line with how the character came out in the opening sequences. There’s a vague attempt to show a possibility why the sarcastic David became a corporate cyborg. Yet, it never truly adds up. Perhaps during the multiple dry moments (where I may have tuned out), the brainwashing of the character is explained. The one scenario that is glossed over is plausible, but the execution isn’t delivered properly to the viewer. Not fleshing this out more will hurt the buyable nature of the character and certain aspects of the forthcoming story.

Other than that mishap, the rest of the flick is fairly enjoyable. The acting is impeccable across the board. Although Gosling’s character is uneven – which isn’t his fault – he plays the Jekyll and Hyde personality seamlessly. Dunst shows some true emotion in a role that actually has depth. Langella is shrewd, which brings numerous awkward moments that will have one feeling embarrassed as they watch. A production choice director Andrew Jarecki made was to film a ton of scenes at night. At first it seems unnecessary but as the story becomes clear, the shots beautifully set the mood. A mood that is steady and cohesive, but one would have liked a bit more suspense.

Overall, All Good Things is not the best title to describe this flick. A Decent Amount of Good Things is more appropriate. Great acting and a solid closing finale that brings it all together does this piece justice. The middle portion could have been more in sync as a few details and/or characters are left out to dry. In the end, the “Based on the true story” ploy lives up to its billing.

Rating: 3 out of 5

All Good Things
All Good Things

By Joe Belcastro

Joe Belcastro is an established movie critic in Tampa, Florida. As a member of the Florida Film Critics Circle, most of his time is spent reviewing upcoming movies. He also covers news pertaining to the film industry, on both a local and national level as well as conducting interviews. To contact Joe Belcastro regarding a story or with general questions about his services, please e-mail him and/or follow him on Twiiter @TheWritingDemon.

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