Magnolia Pictures // 2010 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // March 29th, 2011
The Perfect Love Story. Until It Became The Perfect Crime.
There is a moment in All Good Things when a wife turns to her husband of nearly ten years and says "I barely know you." It's a prophetic statement, as soon enough the husband morphs into a monster who is suspected of killing two people and flat out guilty of taking out another. The bodies pile up, and the story gets more and more bizarre as the film takes its plot from the real life case of accused serial killer Robert Durst. It's a film you probably didn't hear much about with a small theatrical release that barely made a dent in any box office, but it proves to be one of the most intriguing Blu-Ray releases of the year. How many times do we get to hear an alleged serial killer comment on the movie made about him?
The names are all changed because the families on both sides had objections to the telling of this tale, but All Good Things sticks closely to the real life drama of alleged serial killer Robert Durst. As a child he watched his mother commit suicide in front of him, and he grew up in a super wealthy real estate family that owned most of Times Square when it was sleazy and crowded with massage parlors and porn palaces squeezing out legitimate businesses. Here they call him David Marks (Ryan Gosling, The Notebook), and he marries the love of his life (Kirsten Dunst, Spider-Man). They run off to start a health food store in Vermont, but soon are sucked back to the big city thanks to a father's (Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon) ambitions for his son. David starts to crumble and shatter under the weight of great expectations, and his love proves dangerous for his wife who simply wants to establish her own life either with a baby or a career. Before long the two are trapped in a nightmare that results in her disappearing, and his yearning to be anybody but himself. It's one of the strangest crime stories you'll ever hear, and to give away more would ruin some of the best twists real life has to offer.
The film got caught in a financial shuffle that buried it when it was supposed to be released. Originally the Weinstein Company was to handle the release, but financial woes made the studio decide not to release it as planned in 2009. Eventually the director of the piece helped to fund a small release, and then sold the rights here in the United States to Magnolia, who is releasing the Blu-Ray version we have here. It's a real testament to the strength of the home experience with what they have done with the Blu-Ray release.
It's a good movie, although a bit confusing at times as if it is not quite sure what it wants to be. Director Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) and his scriptwriting team pull most all of the story directly from court testimony of Robert Durst from his trial in Galveston, Texas held about ten years ago. It starts off as a romance, turns to a domestic drama, moves to a mystery in the third act, and finally ends up firmly in The Silence of the Lambs territory complete with cross dressers taking on female politicians. You almost expect Anthony Hopkins to show up to taunt everybody about how he is going to eat them with fava beans. The rub here is that all of it is true, and the message is that horror in life often emerges out of romance, black comedy, and mystery. In the end the film takes a look at how an antisocial guy with big dreams becomes a monster, and it makes you wonder how a fork in any of the roads might have stopped what happened next. It is interesting stuff to be sure, even if it does make for unruly cinema that doesn't stick to any rules whatsoever in narrative direction or tone.
A little less messy are the performances, which are uniformly excellent. Even though Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst are far too Hollywood pretty to mirror who they are playing in real life, they play the right notes in every beat and turn like pros. Langella gives a stunning, if stern, turn as the father nobody would want. This trio gives monsters souls, and makes us care about people who we shouldn't truly like.
The film itself is admittedly all over the place and lacking a true identity, but the Blu-Ray gives us all the right context to understand why. The extras are astonishing with the most jaw dropping being a commentary provided by Robert Durst himself who sits down with the director to talk about a film that paints him as a serial killer with serious daddy issues that lead to all sorts of perversions. We hear in the script literally that nobody understands him, and the film itself seems to demonstrate the director has no clue either. The commentary allows Durst to explain himself, and the end result is that we realize he is misunderstood by everyone including Robert Durst. He's never sure what to make of himself either. I don't think I have ever heard someone on a commentary discuss how to dispose of a body with little more than a hacksaw before, let alone do it so calmly as if reciting a recipe. Also included in the supplemental features are extensive interviews with victim families, people who knew the real life subjects. They provide painful discussion of how real life events unfolded to compare and contrast with the movie treatment. We also get a behind the scenes discussion of making the film from the crew in a featurette coupled with a director and screenwriter commentary that explores all of this even further. A trio of deleted scenes are included, and there is also a time lapse feature that showcases the makeup effects used to age the young lead actor. There is also an extensive interview with the director on why this film was so important to him, and how he came to complete it.
Technically the transfer looks great. A widescreen high definition print makes the colors pop, and gives the images a nice cinematic quality. There are no digital artifacts save for some shimmering plaids now and then. The five channel DTS sound is hefty enough to deliver the dialogue and storm effects nicely. It is an understated sound design, so no real need for bombast or overkill.
All Good Things is a messy fascinating film account of a terribly disturbing crime, and it manages to make it romantic and sympathetic at many turns. The film delves into the mind of a troubled man nobody could quite understand, and allows it all to remain as complex and puzzling as it was in real life. There are no easy answers, and that is what makes it so brilliant. The Blu-Ray offers intelligent extras that will only add to the debates. Of particular note is a commentary provided by the real life killer which should thrill true crime fans to no end. For a film that barely saw a theatrical release, this is a solid offering for the home market. It's definitely worth a look, and is a surprisingly satisfying digital find.
Guilty and not afraid to admit it for the entire world.
Review content copyright © 2011 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Cinema Verdict Review