Friday, October 28, 2011

All Good Things

Directed by Andrew Jarecki and written by Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling, All Good Things is about a young real estate heir who marries a working-class girl as his life spirals out of control due to his mood swings and his wife’s yearning to be independent. When she mysteriously disappears, dark secrets are uncovered as he tries to deal with his own demons. The film is based on the life of Robert Durst, the son of a real estate mogul, as the film explores a man’s troubled life. Starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Wiig, Philip Baker Hall, Diane Venora, and Frank Langella. All Good Things is an engrossing although flawed drama from Andrew Jarecki.

It’s the early 1970s as real estate heir David Marks (Ryan Gosling) goes to an apartment to fix the plumbing of a building that is owned by his father Sanford (Frank Langella). There, he meets a young woman named Katie (Kirsten Dunst) as the two go out as she becomes the thing he needed to escape the rich lifestyle that he’s set out for as they live in Vermont. While Sanford doesn’t entirely approve of the relationship, he convinces David to return to New York City believing that Katie will be happy. David reluctantly returns to New York City to work for his father while Katie is hoping to become a medical student as she has trouble dealing with David’s mood. While Katie yearns for a simpler life and wanting a family, David becomes more troubled as he learns that Katie is pregnant.

Yet, Katie’s hopes for a family life is shattered as she spends her time with friend Lauren (Kristen Wiig) as she and David become distant. With David spending more time working and Katie living at the Westchester country home to get herself into medical school. David suddenly becomes more controlling and violent as Katie ponders about what to do as their marriage starts to crumble. When Katie suddenly disappears in 1982, David confronts his father about his mother’s suicide prompting him to disappear. When a district attorney named Janet Rizzo (Diane Venora) wants to re-open the case over Katie’s disappearance in 2000. The Marks family is in trouble as David has disappeared in Galveston as he befriends an elderly man named Malvern (Philip Baker Hall) as David later finds himself in trouble again.

The film is the story of a young man who falls for a girl as she enters into a world of a posh lifestyle though she craves for something much simpler. When he is forced to give in to the world that he’s set for, he starts to unravel by his own past about his mother’s death and his family life as his wife has no idea who he is. Suddenly, she’s gone as questions are asked with no one knows what really happened until a district attorney re-opens the case while the young man has lived in secrecy in Texas trying to disappear. Yet, it’s all told from a man’s perspective as he is on trial for what he might’ve done as he is forced to look back.

While a story like this is likely to have some clichés and there are some which involves what is expected. Yet, the screenwriters are more concerned about what has happened to this young man that had him taking on the life he wanted to run away from and eventually starts to lose it as he becomes more controlling towards his wife. The film starts off as this light-hearted drama and then gets darker as the film progresses into a this restrained yet unsettling thriller where David Marks becomes more disturbed and such though there’s touches of that early in the film. The study of this man and his relationship with his wife and father are interesting though there’s moments where the script tends to fall into clichés at times. Plus, one of the script’s major faults is the time setting where it becomes confusing for the audience to figure out when is this happening.

The direction of Andrew Jarecki is really good for the way he engages the audience into seeing this young man unravel by the pressure he’s going through while trying to be a great husband to his wife. While he couldn’t overcome some of the shortcomings of the script, Jarecki’s does allow the story to build up where it starts off as this study of a troubled man and then becomes this chilling thriller. By the time the third act arrives where Marks is in Texas in a strange disguise, the mood doesn’t change but it is clear that the audience already figures out what happens and it loses some of its suspense. Despite the flaws of the story and Jarecki’s attempt to try and pull away from the clichés. He is still able to make a compelling and harrowing drama about the troubled life of this young man.

Cinematographer Michael Seresin does an excellent job with the film‘s photography that helps sets the mood of the film such as the sunnier countryside scenes with wonderful colors and Super 8 camera footage. Seresin also helps give the film a very dark look with blue and black to emphasize the haunting mood of Marks as the film progresses to a more heightened look towards the end of the film. Editors David Rosenbloom and Shelby Siegel do some good work on the editing where it is pretty straightforward to emphasize the narrative though it rarely jumps back-and-forth to the courtroom scene until late in the film.

Production designer Wynn Thomas, along with set decorator Rich Devine and art director Russell Barnes, does a nice job with the set designs made from the country homes that David and Kate lived in from the 1970s to the early 80s to the more posh home of the Marks family estate and offices. Costume designer Michael Clancy does a fantastic job with the costumes from the stylish dresses the women wear from the 1970s to the more casual, guarded clothing later in the film during the early 80s. Sound designers Karen Vassar and Tim Walston do a fine job with the sound work to play up some of the atmosphere of the locations while mixing Marks’ voice as he recalls some of things that was going on in his life.

The film’s score by Rob Simonsen is stellar for its orchestral-driven score with some low-key yet somber pieces to more dramatic arrangements to emphasize the dark elements of the film. Music supervisor Susan Jacobs creates a soundtrack that is filled with music from the 70s like Steely Dan, Carly Simon, and A Taste of Honey where some of it is anachronistic because some of the music wasn‘t made that year.

The casting by Douglas Aibel is wonderful as it includes some great appearances from Nick Offerman as Kate’s brother Jim, Liz Stauber as Jim’s wife Sharon, Marion McCorry as Kate’s mother, Michael Esper as David’s younger yet more responsible brother Daniel, Trini Alvarado as a neighbor that Kate befriends, David Marguiles as a NYC mayor, and Philip Baker Hall as the elderly neighbor that David befriends in 2000 Texas. Lily Rabe is very good as David’s longtime friend Deborah who tries to help David with his issues while Kristen Wiig is excellent as Kate’s friend Lauren as she has a funny moment during a scene where the two talk to an attorney.

Frank Langella is superb as David’s father Sanford, a man who likes to maintain certain standards while revealing to be very flawed in the way he treats David as he eventually starts to care for Kate. Kirsten Dunst is phenomenal as Kate, David’s wife who starts out as this lively woman only to deal with David’s dark behavior. Dunst’s performance is truly mesmerizing from the way she deals with her own depression as well as her struggle to be independent as it’s really one of her most chilling performances of her career so far. Finally, there’s Ryan Gosling in a spellbinding yet very entrancing performance as David Marks. Gosling’s performance has him starting off as very kind and quiet while it builds to a more brooding yet disturbing performance as a man undone by demons and his yearn for control. Gosling and Dunst have great chemistry while Gosling also has some great scenes with Langella proving that he is one of the best actors working today.

All Good Things is a good though very flawed drama from Andrew Jarecki that features a great cast led by Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, and Frank Langella. Due to some of the clichés revolving around the film and a few anachronisms that can be distracting. The film is still an intriguing drama about the disappearance of a woman in the hands of her husband and what drove him to possibly kill her. In the end, All Good Things is a solid but messy drama from Andrew Jarecki.

© thevoid99 2011

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