Monday, April 16, 2012

All Good Things

By Sati. Monday, April 16, 2012 , , , , , , , ,
75/100 (101 min, 2010)
Plot: Mr. David Marks was suspected but never tried for killing his wife Katie who disappeared in 1982, but the truth is eventually revealed.
Director:Andrew Jarecki
Writers: Marcus Hinchey, Marc Smerling
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella

The Disappearance of Katie Marks

Ironically entitled "All Good Things" is a fascinating and peculiar movie - inspired by true events it begins as if it was a standard romantic comedy, then it becomes family drama only to transform into thriller and then changes into something that would probably be one of Norman Bates's favorite movies. This transformation never feels too bizarre because the film does good job in immersing the story with odd feelings and nuances throughout, but the real story the film revolves around at the very least deserved much better script.

David is a young man, who comes from a wealthy home and he wants nothing to do with family business or becoming his father's heir. One day,during a "meet cute" he meets Katie, lively, lovely and sweet girl who isn't a match for his social or financial status. Nonetheless, or perhaps because of that since it fits into his quiet rebellion against his father, he immediately asks her out and brings her to his house. The girl, though astonished, can totally hold her own, while David remains very shy and puzzlingly quiet as his father throws disapproving looks and scathing remarks his way.
Soon David and Katie marry and they set up organic food store by the name, you guessed it, "All Good Things". The movie's ending which will return to those times, with Katie peacefully walking around on the grass in the film's final moments seems to ask the question - had they stayed there would any of this happen? Probably to some extent, yes, as it mostly comes back to David and his massive issues. Had they stayed there would she still live? Probably yes, since the money weren't involved and it would be much easier to escape.

There's something wrong with David. Katie catches him speaking to himself. He is very quiet. He doesn't want children nor does he want to discuss it. With time he becomes increasingly violent and bizarre. The director doesn't show us the rage slowly escalating and building up - he shows us the explosions of it, sometimes from the protagonists points of view - when David forcefully drags Katie out of her family house - sometimes form the view of bystanders - the neighbors who let Katie in through the window, after she was beaten up by David. It's is effective in a sense that we are as shocked as everyone around David - he is like a ticking bomb, but nobody even realizes how violent and dangerous he may be.
The way their life is presented here is a highly effective technique - it shows how alone Katie was with her problems. There were people around her who knew what was going on, who knew her husband was beating and terrorizing her yet they did nothing. Her family did nothing to help her, the lawyer she consulted couldn't help because the family was so smart in protecting David's money, and the police...well, few bucks and David would go free. Yet Katie kept going back to him, to her prison, even though it would be possible to run away, leaving everything behind.

She kept coming back for money she needed for her studying. But here lies the true weakness of the movie - as much as the scattered point of view and non-linear narration works for some moments, when it comes to showing the relationship between Katie and David it really hurts the movie. It's not clear when love ended and when codependency was all that was left. There are scenes where Katie cares about David, but then she looks cold, then she cares again, and then yet again she's with him because she can't leave. It's very confusing and the character of Katie is believable despite the script and only because of Kirsten Dunst's excellent work.
The film does excellent job with presenting all sorts of sinister symbols, tricks and undertones. The peaceful, joyful opening credits end ominously focusing on David's father in the background. Then when we meet him he is a bit too confident and charismatic to be the standard obstacle for the people in love in your typical love story - you sense right away that something is wrong here. He is indeed the source for David's emotional issues, but it's not what you think. Although he was an awful man, there is only one villain in the story and it's David, who is so chilling I'm beginning to wonder if certain scenes here weren't more frightening than the actions of another of Gosling's violent characters -  the Driver in "Drive".

David is a sick man, what's he sick of we don't know but it's almost certain that it's not just one thing. He is locked in within himself with whatever trauma he experienced, he hardly talks and all of that made me think how on Earth did he get Katie to marry him and love him. Whatever it was one thing is certain - David doesn't even appear to want her to look at him lovingly - he is confident she will never leave, because he knows that in the minute she put on a wedding ring it was as if she put on handcuffs. She depends on his money and if she left despite that, he would probably deal with her the other way.
David doesn't just beat up his wife - he tortures her emotionally in a cruel and calculating ways. He does all of this so peacefully and effortlessly it is the most terrifying aspect of the movie. He just doesn't care what happens and how much he destroys her. As she cries and pleads he just stares at her, unmoved. Gosling is absolutely chilling here and while I'm sure he is a lovely man it's a little disturbing how well he plays all those psychos in movies. Also the things we don't see - often we only see bruises on Katie's face and it's left to our imagination - what happened between her and her husband.

The film has a wonderful musical score which genuinely sets the pace for the movie in its most thrilling moments and beautiful cinematography that shows the seemingly happy and peaceful house David and Katie live in, the building David works in and the idyllic store they had in a separate, but each time satisfying and lovely style. The editing is very slick and there are many brilliant moments here - especially the one where David kills the fly in his apartment..
As with "Heavenly Creatures" the most disturbing thing here is that the real murderer is out there. Actually it's worse in many ways - real Katie's husband was never convicted as her body was never found. So he wasn't even in jail - well not for that at least. While the film changed the names the actual "David" provided commentary for it. Now I do not know what to think - it's either a cheap maneuver on producer's part to talk with the guy or a genuine law abiding decision - hey, he is innocent until proven guilty. And while it's not certain as to what happened in reality, the fact that Katie died because of her husband and maybe even by his own hand is very likely.

Listening to all of what he said was creepy and quite surreal. It is really obvious in the film he killed a lot of people yet this guy knows it and still talks about it openly. There was a part when the guy actually took offence as the movie suggest he killed the dog but not so much when it was implied heavily he killed his wife. That scared me a little because in one scene as one of the characters was shot all I could think of was "Damn, what about those poor dogs? What will they do now?". Huh. Maybe I shouldn't feel too bad, though, as the film provides nice twist with that particular character that sheds a bit of light on certain events.
"All Good things" is a good movie with interesting execution and terrific work from Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling but it has largely disappointing script which lacks important answers - why did she came back? Why did David do all of those things? Why didn't anyone try to convince Katie to run away? It's not only that it doesn't provide the answers, it's that it doesn't give us any hints so we could find the answers ourselves.

19 comments:

  1. I watched All Good Things a while back and was surprised that I actually thought it was alright, knowing everyone else had some sort of hate-campaign, critically anyway, towards the film.

    Glad to see that you've picked out some good parts to the film! Review, as always, is great!

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    1. Thank you! It's bizarre what happened to the movie I check in on metacritic and it has only one negative review, I think it was just released to late and Miramax chose to promote different movies instead in the Oscar race.

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  2. I thought it was a good film that featured superb performances from Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. Yet, I agree with you on the script and I thought the film fell apart in the third act where it got really silly.

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    1. 3rd part was really quite crazy comparing to everything else in the movie, but I did like the last 10 minutes.

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  3. I was going to mention the commentary. I'm glad someone else experienced it, too. Notice how the director always referred to it as "her disappearance", not "her murder"? I bet they had a legal agreement with the guy in order to get him to participate in the DVD. Also, depsite the tons of questions the director asked him, he never asked the obvious one - "Did you kill her?"

    I also noted the bit about being bothered that people might think he killed his dogs.

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    1. That was probably it, the guy escaped consequences so many times he probably takes precaution every time the case is mentioned now.

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  4. I watched this film ages ago and didn't think much of it - but for the life of me, I can't remember why that was! Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst were great, though, and it was pretty well made. I think there was just a bit too much ambiguity.

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    1. It happens to me with films too, I watched Half Nelson and I know I thought it was mediocre but I can't remember why.

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  5. This is pretty much the only Gosling film I haven't seen. As you know I have a serious man crush on my little Ryan, so I must finish off his full Filmography.

    Thanks Sati

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    1. Haha I know! ^^ But you will be scared of Ryan after this one! :)

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    2. You definitely will! It took me a while to look at Ryan the same way after seeing it.

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  6. Great review! Can't believe I never even heard of this one. Torn about whether to watch it now or not. Gosling sounds great, I like the sound of this character.

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    1. He is really great here, I'd rank this performance among his best!

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  7. This has been on my To See list for a long time...I think I even have the DVD somewhere around the house! I should check it out soon, sounds interesting, plus, it has two of my favorites: Dunst and Gosling! Great review!

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    1. Thank you! If you like Ryan and Kirsten you'll like the film, their performances are very strong, some even say Kristen's work here is better than in Melancholia.

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  8. I rarely took interest on thriller movies, but considering the leading actor and actress I took a shot. And it was a great thriller. I think why Katie sometimes looked cold and care for her husband, is because she was in love with him and willing to try to make it work. Great review, Sati.

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    1. Thank you! I agree it really worked as a thriller movie.

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  9. I liked this film a little more than you did. Wasn't expecting a lot from All Good Things, turned out to be an underrated and suspenseful thriller. I had no idea where the story was heading, which kept me on the edge of my seat. I was okay with the ending. Added it to my top 10 films of 2010!

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    1. It was definetly a fantastic thriller, I knew the story before watching the film but there were still some things I didn't anticipate.

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