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Traditional Crime Docu-Drama Dressed Up To Sophisticated And Riveting Entertainment
on November 15, 2010
If you're old enough to remember the TV landscape from about a dozen years ago, you'll remember that the airwaves were littered every week with crime stories "inspired by" or "based on" true events. This entertaining, yet exploitative, sub-genre straddling the line between thriller and docu-drama has since been shifted to cable TV for the most part and, generally, the quality of this type of film has been marred by an unnecessary camp factor. I mention this in preface to talking about the fascinating feature "All Good Things," a film by award winning documentarian Andrew Jarecki, not as a negative association--but as an incredibly positive note. "All Good Things" employs everything that has been overdone about this genre, and despite the familiarity in story telling, stands as a richly intriguing and superbly acted drama. In truth, I loved "All Good Things!"
Based on a real New York missing person's case involving a wealthy and powerful real estate family, "All Good Things" introduces us to the Marks clan. Ryan Gosling plays David Marks who has little interest or patience with the family business. Meeting a young woman, Kirsten Dunst, completely removed from the society set he's been raised in--he sees her as a possible escape. But happiness is fleeting for the couple as Gosling is eventually brought back to deal with the seedier elements in his father's empire. The couple's relationship becomes increasingly strained until Dunst disappears. Investigated, yet unsolved, what happens remains a mystery until an ambitious District Attorney 18 years later decides to pursue matters further. That's when things start to get really strange!
Of course, when you've got master actors at the top of their game--that certainly brings a welcome gravitas to the proceedings. I have, for many years, declared Ryan Gosling perhaps the best actor of his generation. Ever since he burst onto the film scene in the controversial "The Believer," Gosling has eschewed being a mainstream "star." Heck, after "The Notebook," another actor might have taken a very different career path. But Gosling, despite a couple of disappointing forays into big budget Hollywood, has remained true to his indie roots. In "All Good Things," Gosling is riveting--a socially awkward powder keg, he is strangely likable AND dangerously unhinged. It's a great, fully rounded performance. Kirsten Dunst, as his wife, hasn't been this good in years. An intriguing blend of strength and vulnerability, she becomes the heart and soul of "All Good Things." And the terrific Frank Langella is mesmerizing, and filled with oily menace, as Gosling's father.
The film is also great-looking, with its use of shadow and darkness. The score is fantastic as well--so haunting. The first two-thirds of "All Good Things" are absolutely flawless. The pairing of Dunst and Gosling and their story together is as polished and entertaining as anything you're likely to see this year. However, when the film fast forward--it does suffer by comparison. This is where the story becomes utterly bizarre. I still loved it and it is undeniably fascinating, but it lacks the dramatic tension that had so distinguished the earlier sections. All in all, though, this is sophisticated adult entertainment and highly recommended. About 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 11/10.