Review: ‘All Good Things’

The Projector
You can sorta tell from this picture that this marriage won't turn out well. Magnolia Pictures
You can sorta tell from this picture that this marriage won't turn out well. Magnolia Pictures

1. "All Good Things" is about crazy millionaire nutjob Robert Durst, who killed his wife, hid for 20 years, then killed his neighbor while he was impersonating a woman. It's a nutty story, full of everything you might possibly want from the juiciest Lifetime Original Movie: Wealth, true crime, a domineering paternal figure and some good old-fashioned head sickness. This story is the reason Court TV was invented. It is not, however, the reason movie theaters were invented.

2. Which is to say: This is perhaps the most well-cast Lifetime movie of all time. Ryan Gosling plays David Marks -- names changed to protect the guilty -- the perpetually stoned heir to the Marks family real estate fortune. He's been screwed up since he watched his mother commit suicide in front of him as a boy, and he chafes under the demands of his father, played superbly by Frank Langella. He's just a regular 70s playboy idiot until he meets Katie (Kirsten Dunst), a free-spirited hippie chick who obviously has no idea what sort of freakshow she just married. With Gosling, a mannered actor sort who would just relish playing an imbalanced eccentric who slowly goes murderously insane, in the lead role, you expect this to be a dark journey into the twisted, wounded heart of a psychopath. That is not what you get. You get a Lifetime movie, and not a particularly well-made one.

3. Director Andrew Jarecki, who made his name with documentaries, including the great "Capturing The Friedmans," chose this to be his "fiction" feature debut, and he probably should have just kept it a documentary. The film is awkwardly structured, starting with voiceover narration from Marks while on trial that is dropped halfway through and then pops back in whenever it's convenient. Jarecki just can't seem to get a handle of everything that's going on; he can't balance the daddy issues with the money issues and the supposedly tragic love story. Langella does his best -- he has a touching moment out of nowhere toward the end -- but his character is branded with Distant Dad so early on that he can't ever escape it to play a real person. And Jarecki has no idea what to do with Gosling. Rather than show us how screwy he is, he keeps telling us, relentlessly: At one point, Gosling's best friend -- whom we've only just met, even though we're halfway through the movie -- simply says, "Does [Dunst] know how screwed up you are?" Well, now we do, thanks.

4. You think Langella has problems playing a character who isn't there? Try poor Dunst, who's game but really has nothing to do other than wait until she's a missing corpse. (There's not a single second when you believe she'd ever hang out with this weirdo, let along marry him.) The movie hints at her having a drug habit -- which she's turned onto by the sudden, bizarre appearance of Kristin Wiig -- but does nothing with it, and by the end, she's reduced by Jarecki into playing the victim in a horror film. (Complete with a hide-behind-the-door-so-he-doesn't-see-you scene that makes no sense and only serves as a temporary glimpse into another film.) Speaking of Wiig, Jarecki makes another strange casting decision, having "Parks and Recreation"'s Nick Offerman play Dunst's concerned -- but not concerned enough, apparently -- brother. Offerman does his best, but you still won't be able to stop yourself from thinking, "Hey, what happened to Ron Swanson's mustache? Oh, and ... ohmigosh, is Ron Swanson crying?" I'm not sure casting is among Jarecki's skills. And don't get me started on what he puts Philip Baker Hall through.

5. I kind of wish Jarecki would have just gone all out and realized he had a fun, trashy, silly true crime melodrama on his hands. Maybe then it would have been a real Lifetime movie, rather than this ponderous mess. It's not a glossy crime thriller, it's not a Freudian family study, it's not the tale of a doomed romance. It's a sloppy mishmash of all those things that adds up to nothing at all. Forgive me, but I have a feeling I would have liked this a lot more if it came with Sherilyn Fenn, Treat Williams, and Kellie Martin, lush suburban interior decorating, a histrionic score and ads every eight minutes or so for floor cleaner. It would have at least felt more honest.

Grade: C-.