2011 became informally known as The Year of Gosling. Before he stole our hearts/instilled a crippling sense of inferiority in us with great performances in pretty much every film that came out that year he made All Good Things, a film that somehow slipped through the cracks.
Directed by Andrew Jarecki, best known for the moving documentary Capturing the Friedmans, All Good Things tells the story of a wealthy real estate heir David Marks (Ryan Gosling) who meets and quickly marries the young and beautiful Katie McCarthy (Kirsten Dunst). At first their marriage appears to be a fairy tale but soon Marks’ demons surface and their lives turn into a nightmare. There is no lack of films about difficult marriages and abusive husbands but what makes this one stand out is that not only is it based on the true story of Robert Durst, but also that when most films of this type reach their conclusion this one just takes a turn for the bizarre. Can justice really be bought if the price is right?
As David Marks, Gosling is a revelation. There is no hint of the swagger shown in Drive or Crazy, Stupid, Love. None of the tenderness and charm of Noah in The Notebook or the pathos of Lars and the Real Girl or Half Nelson. Instead he infuses Marks with a subtle vulnerability in the beginning that slowly evolves into a quiet menace. You understand why Katie would fall for him and why it’s so hard and confusing for her to leave him. Gosling has never been a particularly vain actor and here he is saddled with unflattering suits and massive glasses (among other things) but he is never less than fascinating to watch. Although be warned, this film might lead to some very disturbing Gosling dreams. And not the good kind.
For those who think of Kirsten Dunst as the perky star of early aughts teen comedies her performance here will convince you that her Cannes win this year (Best Actress, Melancholia) was anything but a fluke. She is the beating heart of the film and the lack of spark is noticeable when she’s not on screen. She’s the yin to Goslings yang, charming and sweet, a young independent woman that, despite the horrible things that befall her, never turns into a victim.
Other noticeable performances include Frank Langella as David’s stern, disapproving father, Kristen Wiig in a rare serious role as Katie’s friend and Nick Offerman as Katie’s brother (although the sight of Ron Swanson sobbing is not one I’ll get over soon).
Set in the late seventies/early eighties the set and costume design pays close attention to period detail without ever shoving it down your throat. The soundtrack is also great and envokes the period subtly. No one says groovy, does the shuffle or listens to ABBA (thank God!) It moves at a slow pace, letting the events unfold naturally without ever manipulating the audience’s emotions. Jarecki really gives the actors space to explore their characters leading to very natural and empathetic performances.
Final Verdict: This story really proves that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. With fantastic performances and a fascinating story this film is moving and will make you marvel at what people can get a way with as long as they have money.
Have you seen All Good Things? What’s your verdict?