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“It was drifting away. I didnʼt want anyone to steal it.”
-Ryan Gosling, as David Marks in “All Good Things”
If you know a rich family, or are part of a rich family, you know how messed up things can be. Iʼve never really understood whether itʼs my perception that money should be able to heal any wounds or that their success is a reﬂection of strong moral character. There are incredible expectations to live up to the family name. It could just be that the pressure of all that wealth makes the cracks that much deeper, visible and dangerous. Either way, the Marks family who own ʻhalf of Manhattanʼ, is pretty messed up.
Thereʼs the detached and morally vacant father, played by Frank Langella. Thereʼs the brave and caring mother who is only seen in early family movies, along with a younger brother who seems keen on keeping up the family business. And then thereʼs David. Thanks to an early childhood trauma, heʼs not quite right. Director Andrew Jarecki, of “Capturing the Friedmans” and most recently “Catﬁsh” (as producer), tells the story in a jagged series of ﬂashbacks which portray Davidʼs adult life as a slow descent into some sort of madness.
Many things ﬂoat away from David in this ﬁlm. Gosling portrays a man who wants desperately to escape his family life and all its ghosts and entrapments, yet canʼt. He wants to be vulnerable to his new wife, but realizes heʼs incapable of that, or most emotions. He wants to be normal, but he knows he is anything but. Kirsten Dunst plays his wife Katherine, who can never be ʻone of usʼ says Davidʼs father. She balances nicely the empathy for a husbandʼs struggles to be his own man with the fear of his loss of control. As his violence ratchets up, so does her dread and understanding of her predicament. Itʼs good to see her get this play opposite two heavyweights in Gosling and Langella.
The expectations to succeed, to follow in the family business, to marry the perfect girl and want the things that everyone else wants are powerful drivers in this movie, and in life. Strong is the person who can resist them, and forge their own path. David Marks could not summon that strength, and the pressures of those expectations got the best of him and triggered unthinkable tragedy. Even his New York City accent gets stronger as he loses the person he gave to Katherine and gets more enmeshed in the family business. But once the inevitable happens, the movie seems to lose much of the tension that keeps the viewer engaged. Thereʼs some cross-dressing, and some hints at ʻPsychoʼ, but hey, this is all ʻripped-from-the-headlinesʼ stuff. (Seriously, Law and Order did a show on this in 1994). The real story happened from 1971 when David and Katherine met, till 1982 when she disappeared. There is a decent surprise thrown in at the end by screenwriters Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling to try to explain things. But at that point, the level of suspense had already crested, and like Davidʼs life, had already drifted away. Ultimately, these are characters we feel sorry for when we read about them in the newspaper, and not much more. The ﬁlm doesnʼt persuade the viewer to really buy in and connect with them, and that is its fatal ﬂaw.
Directed by: Andrew Jarecki
Release Date: December 3, 2010
Run Time: 101 Minutes
Distributor: Groundswell Productions