'All Good Things': Tabloid tragedy of family's haunting secrets

Ryan Gosling plays oddly charming David Marx, Kirsten Dunst plays his wife in "All Good Things."
Ryan Gosling plays oddly charming David Marx, Kirsten Dunst plays his wife in "All Good Things."
Posted: December 17, 2010

'Is there something wrong with you?" the young wife asks her young husband when the subject of children is brought up, and he has said no kids, "not ever."

And in All Good Things, there does appear to be something amiss with David Marx (Ryan Gosling). Son of a New York real estate magnate, David mumbles to himself, seems lost in his own world. He can be oddly charming, and when he first meets Katie (Kirsten Dunst), a Long Island girl just moved to the big city, they are clearly taken with each other.

And then they take to Vermont, to run a health-food store and try to outrun the long shadow cast by David's tightfisted, controlling father (Frank Langella). But David is pressured to return to the city, to take an office in the family firm.

Is there something wrong with you? Indeed.

Inspired by the story of Robert Durst, heir to a real estate fortune and long a suspect in the disappearance of his wife (but never arrested - although he was tried, and acquitted, in another murder case), All Good Things comes from filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, whose documentary Capturing the Friedmans similarly investigated a family haunted by secrets, by transgression.

Mixing sinister, Patricia Highsmith-like intrigue with tabloid tragedy, the creepily evocative All Good Things spans decades - beginning in the 1970s and heading sorrowfully into the new millennium. Jarecki leaves little room for doubt when it comes to David Marx and what he may have done, and if we never exactly understand him, we understand the pain he comes from. It is marked, most momentously, by the suicide of his mother when he was a boy - a suicide he was witness to. And the stern admonishments of his father, the expectation that he would follow in the family business, have dogged David since childhood.

Gosling, who wears old-age makeup in the courtroom testimony scenes that bookend the film, gives one of his fuller, more calibrated performances. He plays a different kind of messed-up married man in Blue Valentine (opening here in January), but his work in All Good Things, with its glimmers of sweetness, its shock of suppressed rage, is far more interesting.

And Kirsten Dunst, as Kathie, a bright-eyed, down-to-earth girl who plans to be a doctor and who gets dazzled by the wealth of the Marx clan, delivers one of the finest turns of her career. The actress' sunny attraction to the admittedly peculiar David gives way to looks of loss and loneliness that are crushingly palpable - her tiny shudders of disillusionment, of hurt and dismay.

Langella projects Scrooge-like meanness without becoming a caricature, and an engagingly offbeat cast of supporting players - Kristen Wiig, Lily Rabe, Philip Baker Hall, Michael Esper, and Diane Venora - add depth and diversion.

All Good Things is a "true crime" drama with speculative scenarios and a kind of deliberately murky aura. It's a strange, thrilling tale begrimed by bad memories, by bad deeds.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

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