Sunday, November 14, 2010

All Good Things – Movie Review

This morning in my movie class, we had a bonus screening where we saw the love story/murder mystery “All Good Things”, starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella.

When the heir to a real estate fortune marries a young woman of modest means, they start out living an idyllic existence – but once the marriage eventually turns sour, she disappears and he is suspected of her murder.
David (Gosling) is being a dutiful son, paying his dues by working his way up in his father’s real estate empire – but after a chance meeting, he is immediately smitten with Katie (Dunst), whom he marries against the best wishes of his aloof, manipulative father, Sanford (Langella).  The young couple make their way to Vermont to live something of a hippy lifestyle in the early 1970’s by opening a small shop selling natural foods – unfortunately for both of them, their business is being subsidized by the wealthy Sanford, who forces them to give up the store and return to New York City so David can resume his career in Sanford’s employ. 

Although David is now able to provide Katie with a considerably better life, they become less happy than they were back in Vermont.  The marriage begins to turn when David denies her request to start a family and things go desperately downhill from there.  Gradually, Katie picks up on some increasingly troubling behavior by David and learns from one of his long time friends about a horrifying childhood trauma he experienced.  The two wind up living somewhat separate lives while she studies to earn acceptance to medical school; all the while, his personal difficulties start to impact his work and he winds up losing his stature at his father’s company, allowing his younger brother to surpass him in Sanford’s choice to run the real estate empire upon his retirement. 

Soon, things become even uglier when David starts to physically abuse Katie.  At this point, she is at something of a crossroads – should she stay married to him and continue being David’s punching bag just so he can pay her way through medical school?  Or should she divorce him, but risk no alimony because the trust funds Sanford set up for David would be unavailable to her by law?  While Katie tries to find a way to force David into paying her off for a divorce, his personality turns darker and stranger.  Not long thereafter, David reports to the police that Katie is missing, but he becomes a suspect in her sudden disappearance.  Did David murder his wife?  And if so, can the police bring him to justice?
“All Good Things” was inspired by true events that occurred here in New York City almost 30 years ago; the case remains unsolved as this woman is still missing.  Many of us living in the city during this period have memories of the media reports of this case, but one question yet to be answered is whether the rest of the country will find it as fascinating as we did.  Given the fact that at its core, this was an intriguing, disturbing tale of a love story gone bad, I would like to think that it will have universal appeal – but we’ll certainly see once the movie opens. 

While I liked this movie on balance, there were some choices or flaws that bothered me somewhat.  To start with, I’ll now mention something that was intentionally omitted from my above story description.  The movie ostensibly starts to be about a recently-divorced New York City detective who may have just been given a break in a cold case which he wishes to re-open.  Roughly two-thirds of the way through the movie, the character is dropped completely and his story is never resolved.  This left me both confused and unsatisfied.  Was this done intentionally by the screenwriter or was this a choice made by the director in editing?  We may never know. 

Another thing that I felt worked against the movie is the fact that the story is not told in chronological order.  Instead, there are many flashbacks and flash forwards throughout.  In the beginning of the movie, I found it to take me out of the story (more than once, I think); eventually, however, once I picked up on the film’s rhythm, I was ultimately able to settle in and follow the story without too much else in the way of distractions.  If this sort of playing fast and loose with time is something that you might find rather jarring, then “All Good Things” may not be the right movie for you.