It's strangely comforting watching how mixed up All Good Things is; one feels a lot better about not being able to draw a bead on the film from seeing its previews. Andrew Jarecki (of the fascinating documentary Capturing the Friedmans) directs this fictionalized account of the life of Robert Durst, the millionaire murderer who managed to be acquitted after dismembering his neighbor's body and tossing it into Galveston Bay.
A miscast Ryan Gosling plays David Marks, the character based on Durst, a recessive, tight-nerved scion of a New York real estate fortune. On the one hand, David's arrogant father (Frank Langella) is buddies with Sen. Daniel Moynihan. On the other, part of the family's immense fortune depends on David acting like a bag man, picking up briefcases full of dollars as rent from the seedy hotels and grindhouse theaters of Times Square in the 1970s.
Alienated by this dirty job (and haunted by the terrible death of his mother), David tries to find some happiness in his marriage with Katie (Kirsten Dunst). But her desire to have a family shakes him up. He starts to go more erratic, ever more violent. Dunst can't do much with this lamb-to-slaughter role, and neither can Kristen Wiig in a serious part as Katie's confidante.
Taking place between the 1970s and the year 2000, All Good Things sprawls. Worse, Jarecki uses a patchwork of cinematic styles, none of which seems right: the scavenged home-movie flashbacks or the venetian-blind-shaped shadows of film noir. Also, All Good Things is soggy with pity; it stresses David as a damaged child who goes on to do damage.
Jarecki considers the film a telling record of a time, but it lacks period atmosphere. The tale is too unusual to credit as an indictment of rich people's privilege, plus it seems equally uneasy on both sides of the class divide. Ultimately, All Good Things dies trying to be an American tragedy.
'All Good Things' opens Friday, March 11, at Summerfield Cinemas.