Thursday, April 07, 2011

All Good Things: Grade D


All Good Things (2010)

Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella; Director Andrew Jarecki.

This movie gets an A for acting. It is outstanding, really quite riveting, by all three principals and also by Kristen Wiig, who plays a small, unnecessary part. However, the movie is a failure in all other aspects: screenplay, script, directing, music, costumes, sets, and even sound engineering (volume unaccountably varies by at least a factor of three). What a waste of superior acting talent. I do acknowledge that makeup was done well.

The most obvious reason for the failure is a familiar one: the story is based on an actual unsolved mystery that took place in New York in the 1970’s, so the filmmakers could not decide whether to do a documentary or a work of fiction, so they did both, badly. And when you think about it, how dramatic a story can an unsolved mystery make? It is unsolved!

Gosling plays a rebellious son in an obscenely rich New York City business family headed by his dad, Langella. Gosling rejects the family business, smokes a lot of weed, and takes up with a “commoner” (Dunst), to open a health food shop in Vermont. That part of the movie seems to work fairly well, but it doesn’t last. Shortly after, the son suddenly decides he needs a lot of money to survive, and goes back to the city to join the family business. We peasants manage to make our way in the world without a wealthy family, but that was apparently not an option for this guy. In shades of The Godfather II and III, the wife is neglected and becomes extremely unhappy in the city. The couple becomes estranged.

At the midpoint of the movie, the husband goes borderline psychotic, becoming incommunicative, almost catatonic, and generally creepy. No explanation for the change in behavior from the first half of the movie is given. It is implied that he has been traumatized by having seen his mother die when he was young, but I guess he only remembered that trauma halfway through the movie? Then the wife inexplicably disappears, and remains missing for the rest of the movie. No foul play is indicated and no one is charged with any crime. Is that a great ending, or what?

Despite the film’s title, there are Hardly Any Good Things in this movie.

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