The names have been changed but hardly to protect the innocent in Andrew Jarecki’s speculative, spellbinding true-crime story, All Good Things. Ryan Gosling stars as David Marks, the heir to a New York real estate fortune, who became a person of interest to the police when his wife, Katie (Kirsten Dunst), disappeared from their Westchester home. Her body was never found. When the case is reopened, David — dressed as a woman — retreats to Galveston, Texas, where he links up with neighbor Malvern Bump (Philip Baker Hall), 71, whose dismembered body is later found in the bay. Durst pleads self-defense. He is also questioned but not charged in the murder of his longtime college friend Deborah (Lily Rabe), a journalist shot execution style in the back of the head at her Los Angeles home. David served three years in jail for bail jumping and evidence tampering (dumping Bump’s body) and now lives in Florida where he sells real estate.
Is this ringing a bell? It should. David bears more than a passing resemblance to Robert Durst, the real-estate heir diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, whose wife Kathleen McCormack went missing in 1982. Durst was questioned in the shooting death of his journalist friend Susan Berman, the daughter of a Jewish mobster, and claimed self-defense in the death and dismemberment of his Galveston neighbor Morris Black. Jarecki’s film directly implicates Durst, as David Marks, in all three homicides.
Audiences may be surprised that Jarecki, who won acclaim and an Oscar nomination for Capturing the Friedmans, a 2003 documentary about a family accused of child molestation, did not tell the Durst story in non-fiction form. Despite the obvious legal reasons, it’s clear that Jarecki wants to probe the psychological layers of a man glibly dismissed as a one-dimensional psychotic. And he used his documentary team to conduct his own exhaustive investigation into the case, not relying on a single article or clip-job book to muster his arguments. The result is a potent and provocative movie that will keep you up nights. All Good Things, ironically named, in “Rosebud” style, after the Vermont health food store the couple opened in the happier days of their marriage, is built to disturb as well as enlighten. And Jarecki, as a first-time feature director, elicits terrific performances from a large cast. Gosling gets so deep into character you can feel his nerve endings. Dunst is heartbreakingly good as the wife who senses fear too late. Rabe excels as the journalist friend with ulterior motives. And Frank Langella brings menacing charm to the tycoon father who allowed his young son to watch his mother take a suicide leap off the roof of the family mansion. All Good Things throws so many narrative balls in the air that you may struggle to catch up. It’s worth the effort. Jarecki is a master of the telling detail.