We scored a sneak peek of All Good Things, which opens at Coral Gables Art Cinema this weekend. And we haven't seen something this uplifting since Capturing the Friedmans, the 2003 documentary about child molestation. Andrew Jarecki directed both, but Good Things is his first foray into fiction. Well, not pure fiction.
Good Things is inspired by the true events surrounding heir to New York real estate fortune, Robert Durst. His wife went missing in 1982, his friend was found murdered execution style, and he appeared to be living in disguise as a mute lady, who's neighbor happened to be shot and diced up. Got all of that? Durst pled self-defense in the neighbor's death, but served time for butchering his corpse. The two other murders remain unsolved. Durst apparently sells real estate in Florida these days, so watch your back.
The question is: Why did Jarecki choose to fictionalize this tale rather
than create a chilling documentary a la Friedmans? Perhaps it was the
fear of being found libel. All names have been changed, but the series
of events follows the mysterious deaths and disappearances in Durst's
real life. The fiction veil is so thin, there's talk that the Durst
Corporation might sue the director anyway.
If Jarecki's intent was to introduce pathos into the Durst case, he
failed there too. The fictionalized David Marks comes off just as Durst
does in the media: as one messed up rich guy who got away with a lot of
This two dimensionality is no fault of the talented Ryan Gosling, who
plays Marks in Good Things. He's convincingly disturbing as madness takes
over his mind with a trickle pace. He slowly falls from cheerful newlywed and owner of a Vermont
health food store to a freak face, abusive who might have just killed
the family dog and served it up for dinner.
Playing the doe-eyed, dimple-cheeked, unsuspecting wife is Kirsten Dunst,
who magnificently perfects a who-the-freak-did-I-just-marry worried
grin. We become terrified right along with her as she recognizes cracks in the
sanity of her hubby before the eventual full-blown crazy he inflicts on
Both the real life Durst and on-screen Marks may have watched their
mothers jump to their death when they were seven years old, thanks to a
particular heartless patriarch played by Frank Langella. But this
simple explanation for the character's insanity and brutality is too tidy. It
smacks too much of crime dramas made for TV movies.
And there are distinct moments in the film that prove Jarecki may not have
been on his best game. At the moment a murder takes place, Marks is
shown swatting a fly. Subtle. In another scene, when Marks sees his
wife's medical school acceptance letter, he dives in a lake and pulls in
his sailboat, sobbing: "It was floating away. I didn't
want someone to steal it." And the audience groans.
Despite its flaws, the film is an enjoyable, stylish ride peppered with
the intrigue of real events and stellar performances. The problem with
All Good Things is a problem of directorial focus. Jarecki may have
inspired new interest in the unsolved murders but to what end?
sympathize with Durst, but not to condemn him either. Instead of screaming
"Put this man in jail!" or "Don't jump to conclusions!," the only message All Good Things seems to
whisper is that too much money can make you flip the freak out - serial
All Good Things has its South Florida premier this Friday, and screen until January 27 at Coral Gables Art Cinema (260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables). Tickets cost $9. Visit coralgablescinemateque.org.