Generously bankrolled (then shelved) by an imperiled Weinstein Company and peopled with Academy Award nominees, it's tempting to call All Good Things an upscale version of straight-to-cable, true-crime crap, which only makes it sound more entertaining than it actually is.
In a fictional retelling, Andrew Jarecki, director of 2003's documentary Capturing the Friedmans, reopens the case of Robert "Bobby" Durst, eldest son, estranged heir and pothead black sheep of a Manhattan real-estate dynasty. Too unstable to properly broker power, Durst re-emerged into the public eye in 2000, when the unsolved 1982 disappearance of his wife was reopened for investigation. Shortly afterward, he was also sought in connection with a Texas man's dismembered body.
Subsequent trials revealed a personal history winding along a trail of crime scenes and the accused's penchant for cross-dressing disguises, sending the New York Post's headline punsters into new heights of eloquence.
Ryan Gosling plays David Marks, an "inspired by" Durst substitute. This symbolic names-have-been-changed distancing by Jarecki and screenwriters Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling and the discrepancies of existing testimonies give the filmmakers freedom to indulge in speculation as to why and how the people close to Bobby Durst — sorry, David Marks — keep disappearing and dying.
Marks narrates the flashback film, reciting his autobiography from the stand at a 2003 trial in Galveston, Texas. This corner-cutting device for establishing character — aided sometimes by montages of home movies tinged in dying golden light — lays out All Good Things' timeline treatment, flipping back over the 30 years of Marks' life leading up to the courtroom.
The majority of screen time is devoted to Marks' courtship of future wife Katie (Kirsten Dunst), and then their slowly disintegrating domestic situation. He's introduced at his most hangdog-affable, meeting the middle-class gal (one of his family's tenants) from Mineola, New York. "She's not from our world," sniffs Sanford (Frank Langella), the Marks family patriarch, dropping through dialogue what the movie wants us to know.
The case-history script is ever on-message, but Jarecki ignores the little details that create a credible social reality. The rich wear tennis whites and live in bigger houses. They also indulge in (unconvincing) backroom deal-making. The late Sen. Patrick Moynihan pops up (an odd exception to the alias-protection program); the mayor is some sort of John Lindsay–Ed Koch fusion; Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro becomes "Janice Rizzo," played by Diane Venora as a broad caricature of venal ambition, high heels propped on desk, noshing candy. This is one of the rare moments where the movie is at least enjoyably tabloid-trashy.
Discount analysis is in session throughout. As a boy, Marks witnessed the suicide of his mother. As a man, finding his wife's letter of acceptance to medical school, her gateway to an independent career, he impulsively splashes into the water by their summer house and hauls their boat ashore: "It was drifting away. I didn't want anybody to steal it."
The film's title comes from the name of the organic grocery store operated by Mr. and Mrs. Durst/Marks at the beginning of their marriage — a lost hippie Eden, or "Rosebud" — before Marks is bullied back into the family business to do its dirty work, putting onus for his crimes on the whole rotten system into which he was born.
All Good Things' patina of fictionalization has not prevented the cagey Durst organization from threatening a lawsuit. They need not worry, though. The film succeeds only in indicting its authors.