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IN SHORT: A too tightly wound thriller. [Rated R for Drug Use, Violence, Some Language and Some Sexuality. 101 minutes]
Back when Cranky worked in the broadcast biz, there was a gentle use of the word "alleged" (or any of its variations) in news reports about murder or other heinous crimes. Nowadays it seems, to us at least, that "alleged" is allegedly used in reports about alleged crimes with allegedly increasing frequency. If you think the "curse" of alleged accusations cannot translate to film we offer up All Good Things.
All Good Things is beautifully written, perfectly acted, carefully crafted recreation of real life events that led to the disappearance of the wife of a beyond rich real estate suit, from a family whose wealth was allegedly close to the billion dollar range. Yeah, billionaires are a dime a dozen nowadays but twenty years back, the wow factor still applied. That being written, the film sticks so closely to the facts that it just cannot let itself go and say "here is the murderer" and wrap the story. In real life, it is still an open case, and so allegations rule. But we're getting ahead of the game.
Begin with a tuxedo clad David Marks (Ryan Gosling) who, while on his way to some high society event that he doesn't wish to attend, is sidetracked by a demanding father to fix a leaky sink in a slum tenement on 42nd Street in New York City. Slumlords like the Dursts ruled huge swatches of the Big Apple until the City fought back to reduce their influence and, cosmetically, restore 42nd Street to its glory days of yore. This particular leaky sink was in an apartment rented by one Katherine MacCarthy (Kirsten Dunst), a blonde beauty from Mineola Long Island, enjoying her first apartment and first taste of freedom from an oversized family. Of course a plumber should have been called but love at first sight is love at first sight.
The Marks family is pleased that the reticent David has found love -- he's been tightly wrapped since seeing his mother suicide when he was all of seven years old -- but father Stanford (Frank Langella) is concerned that "Katie" is "not one of our people". The lower class girl cracking in to and charming the upper class, stiff upper lip boring people in white tie and tails was a genre all to itself back in the depression years. We don't see it a lot anymore and while said feeling underlies the film, that is not the reason for All Good Things to be.
It is a love story between a very balanced young lady and a young man greatly in need of serious psychiatric care. Not that David didn't get some kind of help after witnessing his mother's death. His behavior as this film proceeds across a twenty year track runs from normal, if emotionally repressed young man to an older, straight as an arrow male who just happens to prefer dressing and acting like a woman. But we're getting ahead of ourself.
For most of the film, though, the story is a simple arc of love found, developed and destroyed as each part of the couple become real adults. David, who wanted nothing to do with the family business, falls in line as it becomes evident that he has a family to provide for -- even if he is insistent that there be no offspring from the union. The lovely Katie has her hands full charming David's staid, upper crust family, with mixed results, and suppresses her own desires to become a doctor. All Good Things focusses on the small details of David and Katie's life. The good times and bad. The friends that cross their paths and become confidants. Katie's decision to pursue that medical career.
And the occasional brutal beatings when David just doesn't want to argue anymore . . .
Those beatings should point a finger on that fine day when Katie disappears into thin air. In real life the disappearance is still an open case. In this film, the details are hinted at. Then David resettles in Galveston Texas, where he flounces around in his dress, befriends a paranoid neighbor (Philip Baker Hall) and prepares one more murder to cover his tracks and take out the only remaining witness to his crime.
It doesn't matter that we've said it. All Good Things is all in the acting and Langella, Dunst and Gosling fire on all cylinders. Their performances are complimented by supporting actresses Lily Rabe, Kristen Wiig and Diane Venora as friends of one or both of our star couple. Rabe's role is critical to the story and, if we could attach a little gold star next to her performance, we would.
The downside is that All Good Things is as tightly wound as the upper-crust super rich would appear to be to all of us regular folk. Even as the film points the finger at the villain, there is nothing that can be done to bring said bad guy to justice. The underlings, on the other hand . . . well, that would be telling.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to All Good Things, he would have paid . . .
Those who live only for the arthouse should add two bucks and swoon over the perforan7ces. If All Good Things could have pulled us deeper into its story, the film easily could have blown everything else we've seen this year out of the water. But it doesn't. All the principal performances are noteworthy but add a tiny cameo by SNL's Molly Shannon to the aforementioned role for Wiig and you've got two comedians in a serious movie. That's a serious distraction.
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