Saturday, January 15, 2011

All Good Things (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

All Good Things

There is something rotten at the health food store. But you wouldn't know it from the first moments of "All Good Things", the docudrama based on the life of Robert Durst, a real estate investor who was questioned in the disappearance of his wife in 1982 and the murder of his neighbor in 2000. The case of his wife is still unsolved. He was acquitted in the murder of his neighbor, Morris Black , by self-defense. In adulthood, Durst was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and has deep seated personality problems to say the least. Perhaps this was because he witnessed his mother's suicide. Perhaps not.
As the opening credits roll, we see an All-American family: blue sky, ice cream, a swimming pool, a big country house. 
As the Durst Doppelgänger David Marks, actor Ryan Gosling conveys an amiable but shy young man who comes to check on Katie (Kirsten Dunst). Young David is part Gatsby and part idealist. He wants no part of his father, played chillingly by Frank Langella, or his business which is real estate. David wants to "go back to the earth" and open a health food store named, All Good Things. Family pressure builds. David's father belittles him harshly, without remorse. David relents. He joins his father's business. Seemingly overnight, David Marks transforms into a hopeful Bud Fox from "Wall Street" but his face speaks of Franz Kafka--pale and under duress. Curiously with a 1970s soundtrack by Steely Dan and other disco hits, the movie takes on a Scorsesean pace. Switching to an  edgy and tense "Goodfellas" story of a man who just wishes to be average.  It is the most compelling part of the film.
Tension accelerates as David's dream of organic living is left behind. David's job is as his father's dishwasher of sorts, collecting rents unscrupulously from slums and porno houses. Paranoia sets in. Cops leer in the background. David goes to disco parties, gazing blankly at the glittering ladies of intention. He also attempts primal scream therapy in the quiet afternoon sun. Katie wants kids. The spectral and sweaty David says No: something is "wrong" with him. Nuff said.
When Katie gets accepted to med school and has a party, David rages. He grabs his wife by the hair and shatters a glass near her face. Katie leaves the marriage. She looks at his incriminating accounts, then returns home. Abruptly David resembles Michael Myers from "Halloween" more than a human being. 
Did I miss something?
Katie makes a bloodcurdling discovery: David brutally killed the dog. A psychotic? Schizophrenia? Autism? The movie leaves it open. Katie disappears and as icing on the sinister cake, David's girlfriend somehow agrees to dress as Katie to fool authorities.
David goes into hiding becoming a transvestite or wait! Is it Michael Caine from "Dressed to Kill"? David befriends a middle aged man (actor Phillip Baker Hall from "Seinfeld") with an enthusiasm for guns. The man gets an eviction notice and threatens David with a gun. David beats him to a pulp, and dumps his dismembered body in the lake, in full drag. 
The last scene shows David Marks in the elevator singing an uplifting spiritual ditty, which echoes the final image of Norman Bates in "Psycho" ("why, I'm not going to even swat that fly").
"All Good Things" is a split screen mirror of two films: one half heartfelt chase of innocence, one half American Psycho Horror Show. 
The most disturbing part of the film is that the real Mr. Durst is now living in Florida after three years in prison (for the illegal disposal of a body) and is continuing work as a real estate investor.

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