As I was watching this movie, I was recollecting the newspaper articles I''d read about the "true events" that inspired it. It''s a strange, strange story and it seems to me that the screenplay tried to make it less strange by psychologically profiling David Marks (fictional...
As I was watching this movie, I was recollecting the newspaper articles I''d read about the "true events" that inspired it. It''s a strange, strange story and it seems to me that the screenplay tried to make it less strange by psychologically profiling David Marks (fictional name, played by Ryan Gosling), a character who is put on trial for murdering a neighbor two decades after his wife disappears. The trial brings into question David''s past -- including his myseriously missing wife -- and is the device used to tell his life story. The film takes the stance that David ultimately gets away with three murders, but it also focuses on his disturbing childhood and strained relationship with his very wealthy, well-connected and corrupt father (played by Frank Langella), a New York State real estate mogul with political pull. I felt like I was supposed to walk away from the film with a greater understanding of why David was a pyschopath, but honestly I didn''t care that much about him -- I cared about his wife, Katie, played incredibly well by Kirsten Dunst.
Katie is a key character, but her relationship with David isn''t explored enough to satisfy me. This may be because it''s David who''s telling the story. The scenes we''re shown during his testimony do provide insight into his abusiveness towards her. What they don''t do is explain what the heck Katie was thinking; her family is present throughout the film, but her social life prior to meeting David isn''t incorporated at all and no one questions the earnestness with which she initially devotes herself to him. She''s more like a pawn, or a plot device, than a fully fleshed out person. It''s intimated that she likes David''s money, but she also seems to really like him, which doesn''t make sense. Katie is beautiful and smart enough to get into med school; David isn''t particuarly physically attractive and his character has zero personality and ambition (this isn''t "The Notebook"). The time line is weird too. Katie and David are married in 1972 and when it seems like only a few years have gone by, it''s suddently 1982. And the couple seems to be as unfamiliar with each other as they were a decade before.
During the course of the movie, David goes from being someone with "issues" to a full-fledged pyschopath. Eventually, he starts dressing in women''s clothing. Yet it''s all pretty boring. I think this has to do with the constraint of David being the narrator. He tells the story he wants everyone to believe -- he is on trial -- while we''re shown the "actual" (according to the screenplay) events as only he would know them. The film does let us in on too much by showing scenes in which David doesn''t appear, which is a common and forgivable transgression. But it never truly veers far enough from David''s point-of-view to be thrilling or achieve an effective level of depth. He claims he''s dressing as a woman because he doesn''t want to be recognized,and that''s that.
The scenes that are the most revealing are the ones between David and his father, which makes sense since the movie is about David. But Katie (Kirsten) is the one who shines and the one in whom I was invested. There''s a lot of viewing time left after she disappears, and she really just disappears. It left me feeling that the movie was uneven and didn''t fulfill its full potential. Kirsten Dunst certainly fulfills her potential in this movie with a truly excellent performance that should have garnered more attention. For a supremely good movie along the lines of "All Good Things," see "Reversal of Fortune" starring Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close -- a dramatization of the real-life appeal of Claus van Bulow''s attempted murder conviction for putting his heiress wife in a permanent vegetative state. Mr. Irons won an Oscar for his performance.