Blockbuster Movie Month: "All Good Things" Review

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A 2010 romantic mystery thriller based loosely on the real life experiences of Robert Durst, a real estate heir whose first wife, Kathleen McCormack, disappeared in 1982. Set in New York City, the film opens during the 1970's, when David Marks (Ryan Gosling), the son of a powerful real estate tycoon, marries a beautiful working-class student named Katie (Kirsten Dunst). Together they flee the city for country life in Vermont — only to be lured back by David's father.
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Rating: R
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: December 3, 2010
Directed by: Andrew Jarecki
Genre: Crime / Drama / Mystery

"All Good Things" is a film loosely based on the true story of the disappearance of Kathleen Durst, the first wife of New York real estate scion Robert Durst. In the film, Robert Durst's character, David Marks, is played by Ryan Gosling. Kirsten Dunst plays David's young wife, Katie Marks. The film, which is based on news accounts, court records and conjecture about the unsolved crime, paints David as the instigator of a triple homicide. In the film, David ends his wife's life at their lake house after a fight and then plans the murder of his friend Deborah Lehrman, played by Lily Rabe. He then murders Malvern Bump, played by Philip Baker Hall, eliminating the two people who helped him cover up his wife's murder over the years.

The film follows the courtship of David and Katie, their wedding and the first happy years of their marriage as they escape David's domineering family in New York City. The couple moves to Vermont and starts a health food store called All Good Things. Eventually, the couple's happiness ends as David's father calls them back to New York so that David can take his rightful place in the family's real estate business. As David's family gains more influence over the couple, David's anger and emotional distance from his wife grow. Katie wants a family but soon learns that David does not. This leads her to have an abortion, which further distances the couple. As their marriage starts to crumble, Katie spends more time at the couple's weekend house and grows more independent as she starts medical school. David grows angrier, which eventually culminates in the fight in which he kills both Katie and their dog, Igor.

David waits four days to report Katie as missing to the police. During this time, his friend Deborah dons a blonde wig and goes to the couple's apartment in New York to pose as Katie in order to confuse the timeline of her disappearance. As the years pass, David becomes estranged from his family, and Deborah encounters financial difficulty. To help ease her plight, Deborah reaches out to her friend David for money to keep her quiet about what really happened to Katie. Rather than paying the hush money, David's friend Malvern takes it upon himself to murder Deborah for David so that she no longer poses a threat. When David discovers what Malvern has done, he worries that Malvern could tell his secrets to the authorities. David then murders Malvern, dismembers his body and tosses the pieces into Galveston Bay. David runs away and hides in Texas under the guise of a mute blonde woman.

Although the real life tale of murder was never solved, the film leads viewers to believe that David killed his wife, instigated the murder of Deborah and then killed Malvern. In reality, although Durst was a suspect in both his wife's disappearance and his friend's death, he was never formally charged with either crime. He was found guilty of killing his friend, Mr. Black, who was recreated in the film as Malvern, but a Texas jury ruled it as self-defense. The film does a brilliant job of linking all three murders together while also displaying David as a not unlikable character who is a victim of his environment as much as he is a cold-blooded killer. Viewers are treated to a fabulous performance by Gosling who effectively shows how David was molded into the person he becomes and then how he unravels emotionally and psychologically as the life he sets up following his return to New York with Katie begins to fall down around him.

"All Good Things" is a period piece that spans three decades, starting in 1970s Time Square and ending in the 2000s. By utilizing washed out colors and gritty textures, the filmmakers showcase the darkness of the tone of the film while working to remain true to the time periods during which the real story took place. The amount of research that Jarecki completed is also evident in the screenplay, which hinges on the audience seeing these characters as real people. Rather than simply settling for reading the written accounts of the crimes, Jarecki took it a step further and spoke to people who actually knew Robert Durst and his family during the time that his wife Kathleen disappeared. David's monologues also draw heavily from the actual court transcripts of Durst discussing his mother's suicide, his father's preference of his younger brother and his marriage to Kathleen, lending another element of realism and humanity to the fictional account of the story.

Although "All Good Things" is fiction based on real life, it gives viewers a sense of closure that the story of the real life crime never can. Director Andrew Jarecki takes a story that was highly sensationalized in the media and gives it a beautiful flow and continuity that the tale cannot receive in reality simply because it is unknown what happened to Kathleen Durst and if her disappearance is actually related to the murders of Susan Berman and Morris Black. The performances given by Gosling and Dunst show David and Katie in a realistic, humanizing way as the all too familiar couple who start out as young and in love and end up distant, angry and bitter, arguing over where it all went wrong.  "All Good Things" shows the extremes that a person can go to for love and casts a new light on a disturbing real life crime that remains unsolved.