Friday, May 6, 2011

All Good Things. C+

Why does All Good Things feel like its goal is to race to the finish line? Why does a movie so compelling and full of strange characters seem to wish for a hasty conclusion? There must be more to it. In fact, I know there is because director Andrew Jarecki reportedly shots hours and hours of footage of the people the film is based on. But just when the movie gets interesting, Jarecki seems to lose his passion for telling the story. Gladly the first half of the movie works wonders. We know from the beginning there is trouble brewing with the young David Marks (Ryan Gosling), whose disturbed life could be the direct result of his overbearing dad (Frank Langella). Not only is he responsible for David's witnessing of his mother's tragic suicide, but he has expectations as the the direction of his son's life and will not to capitulate to alternate plans. Yet although he has his problems, David is a man of considerable charisma, so when he helps Katie (Kirsten Dunst) with a leaking pipe, he's all but won her over. Jarecki tracks the evolution of their relationship with lots of home-video style footage and non-linear narrative techniques. In the first hour he does just about everything right, telling a great deal about these characters with minimal time. He makes us understand Katie, fear David, and wonder what ignites the flame inside him that causes him to murder his wife. Because we know that this is a true story of an unsolved missing persons case. Based on David's uneven persona in the first hour, we sort of assume there is a strange inner-hatred boiling inside him that culminates in the murder of Katie. But maybe that's not the case, as the final forty minutes of the movie suggest. The only problem is that Jarecki really loses track of his story during that time. What was a fascinating romantic mystery becomes a tedious excursion. We feel the movie rushing along and get the sense that Jarecki is just piling on the different facts and characters so he can go home. That's not how good movies are made. He hasn't made a bad one here, and the first half is almost great. But whether he intended it or not, or whether the studio wanted a shorter version, All Good Things cannot create such a strong buildup, slide the way it does, and expect people to like it.

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