Kirsten Dunst has won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her turn in Melancholia. I was tremendously impressed with her in Andrew Jarecki’s All Good Things. My review is posted below.
ALL GOOD THINGS is a dark film of people pushed into doing terrible things that overpower their ability to see themselves clearly. Mostly this applies to David Marks played by Ryan Gosling. David wants to be a hippie health food storeowner and husband, but he’s reeled back to New York to work for the Marks Organization, which owns most of Times Square. Not the posh shops, restaurants, and theaters of today, but the cruddy hotels, peep shows, and houses of ill repute of MIDNIGHT COWBOY.
We see David’s descent from decency through his relationship with his wife Katie (Kirsten Dunst). Her radiance gives David life and confidence, but her spirit fades as David’s unhappiness increases and is eventually stomped and beaten out of her by him. After fighting, escalating violence, and Katie’s attempts to escape the marriage; Katie disappears. The film does not reveal what happened to Katie because of the true crime story the film is based on. David is actually Robert Durst, New York real estate heir who’s wife Kathie disappeared. Gosling recites actual testimony from a separate (connected perhaps in the film’s eyes) murder of Durst/Marks’ neighbor 20 years after his wife vanished. The film hints here and there as to who might have done what, but leaves it up to the audience to puzzle. The most important member of its audience, Durst, has said the film made him cry.
This film works because of Kirsten Dunst. She is bright, lovely, hopeful, and over her head in this marriage. Her horror as David turns monstrous was real for me. There’s a particularly difficult act Katie is forced to take and Dunst plays is beautifully. Once she is removed from the film, a dark cloud settled over the film and me. Also, Frank Langella is the perfect bastard father. After David and Katie’s wedding, we see the couple and their parents getting the check for the celebratory lunch. Mr. Marks growls to Katie’s mom, “It’s $37 each.” I mean the man owns half of New York and won’t pick up a simple lunch bill. The shock and disgust on Katie’s and her mom’s face registers because money to them comes second to family and decency. His evils comes out of the belief that everyone must pay their own way and earn the right to be happy, I suppose that is how he sees his own success. Langella delivers a real villain, while Gosling is a cipher for one. He talks of the terrors from his childhood and pressures of his family, but never really shows himself. Next to Dunst and Langella, Gosling glowers in the shadows usually in ugly sweaters. We see the damage, but not really the man.