There’s nothing worse than watching a bad movie that you know had the potential to be so much better, a movie with an interesting idea and a terrific cast that does nothing to set itself apart from the rest of the crowd. This notion lingered in the back of my mind the entire time I watched All Good Things, a supposed mystery thriller that slowly spiraled downward the further it went on. I tried to like it, but by the time I reached the end, I had given up.
The story is inspired by what the press release says is the most notorious missing person’s case in New York’s history. Ryan Gosling plays David Marks, the young son of real estate mogul Sanford Marks, played by Frank Langella, who narrates the movie through his testimony at his trial. His story spans multiple generations and he begins in 1971 when he meets the love of his life, Katie, played by Kirsten Dunst, whom he eventually married. Their rocky relationship raised the eyebrows of those around them and after Katie went missing, David quickly became the prime suspect.
All Good Things is a movie in search of a tone. It tries to be a romance, drama horror and thriller all in one, but it mixes them together poorly resulting in wave like tonal changes. For instance, one scene shows David as he violently grabs Katie by the hair and drags her out to the car, which then instantly cuts to inside their home where she acts like he’s done little more than burned dinner, least of all physically abused her. Once Kristen Wiig shows up, it even turns into a kind of light comedy, though the laughs are outmatched by the unintentionally funny final third of the film where David starts to dress up in drag, effectively creating one of the most unconvincing women in Hollywood since the Wayans brothers in White Chicks.
Much like this year’s Charlie St. Cloud, only a musical change would be required to completely flip the meaning of a scene or shot. The ominous music that plays while lingering on David’s empty stares show him as unstable and evil, but without it he would merely look depressed. Similarly mishandled, his evolution to violence is faulty. Before his aforementioned violent eruption, he is shown talking to himself, a supposed sign of mental instability, which at this point has become a cinematic cliché. Lots of people talk to themselves (hell, I do) and scientists have actually found it to be beneficial. More needed to be done to convince me to be afraid of David.
All Good Things looked like it was going to redeem itself in its closing minutes. Its ending is interesting and, assuming you haven’t done your research prior to viewing, unexpected. However, once you learn what he was on trial for, it makes you wonder what exactly the point was of the first hour. The two events portrayed in this movie are only loosely linked, so the beginning comes to feel kind of unnecessary upon reflection.
If it can be praised for anything, All Good Things wrings out some good performances from its cast. Gosling and Langella are effective as usual, but Kirsten Dunst, who hasn’t impressed in many years, shows she shouldn’t be written off yet. She has the most emotionally nuanced role of all and she carries it out with poise. But aside from that, I’m afraid there isn’t much to All Good Things. Its title is a lie. It isn't even mostly good things.
All Good Things receives 2/5