Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling star in Andrew Jarecki's first narrative feature, All Good Things.
Andrew Jarecki is man of considerable talent and accomplishments. After selling Moviefone, a company he co-founded, for $400 million to AOL in 1999, he became a documentarian whose first film, "Capturing the Friedmans," stunned audiences, winning the Grand Jury prize at Sundance and earning him an Oscar nomination. He also co-wrote the theme song of one of our favorite TV shows, "Felicity," with his buddy, J.J. Abrams, the same guy who got into a bidding war with Brett Ratner at Sundance in 2009 to win the rights to another standout film Jarecki produced, "Catfish."
With such a gleaming track record, it was with breathless anticipation that we sat down to screen his first stab at creating a semi-fictional narrative, "All Good Things." The film is based on a true story, thus allowing Jarecki to stick close to his documentary roots while working with a malleable storytelling format, and stars Ryan Gosling as David Marks, the disturbed heir to a New York real estate dynasty, with Kirsten Dunst as Katie McCarthy, his wife who "mysteriously" went missing in the 1980s and was never found.
Inspired by the real life of Robert Durst, and the imagined death of his wife, Kathleen McCormack, Jarecki reportedly approached the film the way he would a project like "Capturing the Friedmans," shooting hundreds of hours of footage with real people associated with Durst and his alleged crime, none of which factors into the final film.
Perhaps that one of the reasons "All Good Things" suffers from such a lack of focus. Fragmented and convoluted, Jarecki never seems to find his narrative or stylistic footing, instead grasping at a bevy of good ideas and crushing them into a hodge podge that vacillates between retro love letter, crime drama and character study.
Durst's tale is also a case of fact being stranger than fiction. The story is too bizarre to be believable and would be better told as a straight documentary, allowing the audience to gasp at the horrors that lurks where least expected, a niche that Jarecki understands well.
Instead, when Gosling, unquestionably one of the best actors of his generation, descends into madness, it feels too much like acting show-and-tell, merely an exercise to demonstrate his abilities. On the bright side, Dunst, who stepped away from Hollywood for a few years following 2007's "Spider-Man 3," popping up only once in the little watched "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People," re-emerges with a newfound confidence that made her such a delight to watch as a younger performer but was lost sometime around "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."
Sadly, "All Good Things" is an embarrassment of riches that's squandered.