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All Good Things Early Reviews: "Fascinating," "Scrambled," "Uncompelling Psychological Portraiture"

by Sophia Savage
November 30, 2010 7:25 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood


Andrew Jarecki's All Good Things, inspired by the true story of New York's infamous Durst family, finally found distribution with Magnolia Pictures back in August, and opens with a limited released December 3. Starring Ryan Gosling, who is generating more complimentary buzz for popular and controversial Blue Valentine (opening December 31), and Kirsten Dunst, in her first outing in two years, All Good Things is decidedly flawed while still riveting for some. Early reviews are below:

THR's Sheri Lindent:

"…Gosling creates a fascinating black-sheep composite of awkward charm and profound emotional damage…But Dunst, in her best screen performance to date,…Negotiating the narrow ledge between love and self-interest,…embodies a complex mix of middle-class humility and worldly ambition, and she shows how something goes dead in the vivacious Katie long before her 1982 disappearance...

..Despite some choppy transitions and a few melodramatic moments that don't work, the film casts an effective, deepening chill. With the help of Rob Simonsen's rich score, Jarecki pushes the story's thriller edge while keeping the viewer just outside the increasingly troubled characters…DP Michael Seresin's muted palette is a nod to '70s cinema, with well-chosen Steely Dan numbers further evoking that era of ruin and possibility."

The New Yorker's David Denby says:

"Jarecki, moving forward and into the past in fragments, directs the movie as if it were a thriller, but he doesn’t really know what happened, so he has to fudge important points, and Gosling, stuck with playing an inexpressive man who might be a psychopathic murderer, can’t find a rhythm for the part. The movie never jells."

Slant Magazine's Andrew Schenker says:

"Jarecki leaves little doubt about what we're supposed to think. Over-directed…Notably uneven, All Good Things's early scenes suggest an intriguing look at the power structures of 1970s New York…But when the director shifts his focus exclusively to the dual decline of David's marriage and his mental health, the film trades its wider curiosity for uncompelling psychological portraiture…pretty soon Jarecki's concerns devolve into watching David go off the deep end, as an admittedly game Gosling is given little to do but throw tables across the room...[Jarecki's] film suffers from the belief that his lead character is fascinating enough to carry the movie by himself. But it takes more than a little ambiguity and amateur-hour psychoanalysis to make Gosling's cipher the basis of an engaging screen drama, no matter how much Jarecki's visual trickery and Rob Simonsen's assaultive score try to delude us into thinking otherwise."

Film Journal's Doris Toumarkine says that with "the engrossing All Good Things…"

"…audiences get a nifty cinematic gift from director Andrew Jarecki (the Oscar-nominated doc Capturing the Friedmans), who has fashioned a faithful if scrambled retelling of the scurrilous events that have “captured” headlines since the 1980s…Jarecki gets fine performances from all hands. Both Gosling and Langella again play Jewish quite convincingly and Dunst is the familiar shiksa. The film is also immensely helped by the decision to shoot on or near many of the locations where actual events unfolded…In spite of its attention to detail and authenticity and its 'inspired by a true story' disclaimer, the film recently, ahem, triggered a reported threat from the Durst Organization to sue the filmmakers and distributor if the film is released in its current state…"

ThePlaylist's Kevin Jagernauth calls it "an undercooked drama in the realm of a cheap made-for-TV movie. Filled with fact, but barren of any real story, [it] barely has a couple good things worth mentioning":

"...the seedy saga of the powerful family’s black sheep should be fascinating. But unfortunately, [it] finds a film so focused on the minor key details of the story it fails to engage with the elements that make it such a compelling case,…so ploddingly one note and narratively confused, you keep waiting for the film to wake up,..the somewhat amateur construction of the plot could be forgiven if it was interesting, but the film’s greatest failing is that, like David, it remains hermetically sealed within the confines of the Marks’ upper class world…The film does have moments where it manages to break out of its mummified state, and not surprisingly, it occurs when we get some time with the supporting players. Kristen Wiig is solid in a dramatic turn,…And though Gosling is underserved by the script, Dunst has the best performance in the film by far."

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