A wealthy family with a dark past is the subject of All Good Things, a movie based on the real-life story of a New York real estate family and its troubled son.
The movie is a fictionalized account and the names have been changed — so to be clear, it’s the movie I’m discussing here.
David Marks (Ryan Gosling) is the son of real estate developer Sanford Marks (Frank Langella), owner of large swaths of property in New York City. David isn’t particularly interested in working for his dad or being part of 1970s New York elite but hangs on, sullenly going to his father’s social events and seeming to lack the will to break out of his father’s shadow. That is until he meets Katie (Kirsten Dunst), a young would-be medical student living in one of his father’s properties. He develops a fast attraction to her and the pair soon are married and living in Vermont, where they run a health food store called All Good Things. But the store doesn’t really make money and Sanford is still supporting David through family trusts. It’s this string that he yanks to get David to move back to New York City to work in the family business. Reluctantly the pair go, and slowly Katie realizes David isn’t entirely the man she thought she’d married. His longtime friend Deborah (Lily Rabe) tells Katie about his troubled childhood (he saw his mother commit suicide) and David himself grows squirrelly when Katie mentions having children.
Eventually, Katie decides to fulfill her med-school dreams and the distance between her and David grows, pushing this already unstable man to the edge. She tries to leave him but finds the process more difficult and dangerous than she’d imagined. Their troubles come to a head one night in 1982 out at their country lake house and then Katie vanishes.
We catch up with David again nearly two decades later. Now he’s living in Texas, dressing as a woman and posing as mute. He befriends (sorta) a curmudgeonly neighbor named Malvern Bump (Philip Baker Hall). Perhaps he suggests to Bump that they can move in together if he does David this one little favor. Or perhaps Bump is himself a dangerous and delusional man who threatens David, who is now under investigation for Katie’s death and is afraid of being pulled back into that world. Whatever the cause, Bump ends up dead and chopped up in many pieces and the movie is bookended by a now old David telling his life story while on the stand charged with Bump’s murder.
Once upon a time, this would have made for a juicy, tawdry based-on-a-true-story TV movie. And while the movie features all sorts of serious actors — Gosling, Langella, Hall — junk-food TV movie is the level on which it is enjoyable. Not to disparage this creepy tale — it is a solid and disturbing TV movie, one that will keep you watching even when you know where everything is going. Langella is entertaining as the movie’s malevolent force — not quite the villain but definitely the harbinger of bad things to come. Gosling is nicely shaky and strange — maybe he’s nuts, maybe he’s nuts and murderous, you’re never quite sure. Even Dunst gives a bit more to her character than just “wife in distress.”
And ultimately it’s the performances that help elevate All Good Things above the level of just morbid curiosity.
Rated R for drug use, violence, language and some sexuality. Directed by Andrew Jarecki and written by Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling, All Good Things is an hour and 41 minutes long and is distributed in limited release. It is available through the Magnolia Films section of Comcast’s OnDemand.