All Good Things (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
30Mar/110

All Good Things (2010)

Andrew INDIFFERENTWhile struggling to come up with some kind of message or genuine underlying subtext layered throughout All Good Things I kept coming back to the same blank expression that David Marks (Ryan Gosling) wears.  We're never given any conclusions as to his psychological trauma or why he is so bipolar when it comes to his wife Katie (Kirsten Dunst).  Sure there are hints, but on David sits with the same placid expression, day in - day out, and I slowly grow more bored with him.

All Good Things is the perfect candidate for a shelved film.  It was finished and originally scheduled to come out in 2009 but the Weinstein brothers did not feel that the film was finished.  By "finished" in this case they really mean that the film did not seem to be fit for consumption by many people.  Turns out they were right and All Good Things was given a release only after Gosling started generating a lot of awards buzz for Blue Valentine.

As in Blue Valentine, this is not the best marriage.

Well, go get Blue Valentine when it comes out and forget that you ever saw this review of All Good Things.  It's hour and forty minute run-time consists of eighty minutes of thumb twiddling to support a bewildering and completely insane final twenty minutes.  Until the final twist comes into play I was convinced that the movie was made because of some kind of contractual obligation.  After that it becomes clear why director Andrew Jarecki became involved with the material.  Less clear is why this is the execution that seemed most desirable.

David's story is apparently based on one of those "so strange it's true" cases that are made into films like this from time to time.  The film spans the early seventies until the year 2000 when David is brought to trial for murder.  We see his frustrations come into play as he's dragged into the suspicious business dealings of his overbearing father (Frank Langella).  This drags David's psyche down further and he becomes incredibly abusive to his wife Katie, the extent of which is getting to be so great it threatens to spill over into his public life.  Then one day in the 1980's, she seemingly disappears into thin air, at which point the story shifts 20 years later and things get weird.

I might have been a bit more affected by the changes that awaited David had the movie seemed to be prepared for them.  The majority of the film deals with the sterile business dealings of David and his father as though they are just that.  There's little attempt to embellish or give any sort of dramatic heft to the day to day runnings of the business, a decision I find terribly perplexing since Andrew Jaercki is a documentary filmmaker first and decided to drain life from this tale as a fictional narrative.  The stock "son wants to go his own way, father insists he follow his" storyline is not altered in the slightest, deflating half the film of any dramatic heft.

The feverish strangeness that could have elevated the movie comes far too late to be of any consequence.

Now I might have been a bit more shaken up about Katie's disappearance if we ever learned anything at all about her or her relationship with David outside of the abuse.  We move so quickly from them first meeting to her being dragged away from a party by her hair that the negative interactions between David and Katie are all we see.  Other than serving as a body to disappear from the screen, Kirsten Dunst is asked to do little except look very sad for 95% of the runtime.  To what effect?  Well, given the conclusion it just doesn't seem to be much.

The only thing that saves this movie from complete mediocrity are those closing moments and it's maddening that I can't speak of them without giving away the only good twist in the movie.  While everything else is on careful rails, the final act is so gratefully unhinged that Jarecki moves away from the languid pace he set the film at and seems invested with a renewed vigor.  I was grateful to have these moments but the final scenes are so juicy that a whole movie could have been made based on them alone.

So why wasn't it?  That I can't say.  All Good Things isn't even a film of empty calories you can have fun with.  It's just a miserable experience, livened by a shock.  Hopefully Jarcki learns to lead with a stronger hand next time, because 28 years of business deals don't make for the most gripping cinema.

All Good Things (2010)
Directed by Andrew Jarecki.
Screenplay by Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling.
Starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella.

Posted by Andrew

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