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Roger Moore, McClatchy Newspapers, Published January 21 2011

Dunst shines in ‘All Good Things’

MOVIE REVIEW

“All Good Things”

Kirsten Dunst makes a vivid, brittle return to the big screen with “All Good Things,” a fictionalized account of a notorious New York missing-person case with hints of great wealth, great love, treachery and murder.

Sharing the screen with Ryan Gosling – who plays a New York real estate heir with a tormented past and a hair-trigger present, and Frank Langella, playing the heir’s imperious tycoon father – Dunst is dazzling as an open-hearted young woman who learns to be cunning as she struggles to escape a bad high-society marriage.

We hear David Marks (Gosling) before we see him, testifying in court, prodded into explaining himself and his personal history. The events of this thriller are related in flashbacks. So director Andrew Jarecki (“Capturing the Friedmans”) gives away his own “spoilers.” We know David – based on real-life “billion dollar fugitive” Robert Alan Durst – is still living. We know something bad happened and we sense that he has been brought to justice.

Jarecki does a pretty fair Hitchcock imitation here, letting his couple “meet cute,” relating their hippie-era courtship and disco-era marriage, David’s father’s snooty disapproval and the first hints of trouble in the marriage, which is when the throbbing strings of a faux-Hitchcock score turn up.

There’s also the suggestion of financial chicanery, with the Marks family having passed down Times Square property that it has owned since before there was a square, or a New York Times, for that matter. Gosling, more mannered and fussy than he needs to be, still ably conveys a brooder in rebellion against his family and his wealth.

David and Cathy run off to Vermont to run a health food store, paid for with David’s trust fund. “How do you think my son can afford to live like this?” the father sneers at his daughter-in-law.

But David is drawn back into the family business, collecting the rent, in cash, from the various low-life tenants of the family’s prime real estate holdings. And Cathy starts to get hints that David’s a messed up guy. It begins with general thoughtlessness and works its way down to his sometimes violent, always controlling reactions to her hopes for the future.

Living “the good life” might seem to forgive some of that, but as Cathy fails to figure out what is eating David and the threat of violence grows, she is forced to scheme her way out of the trap her life has become.

“I’ve never been closer to anyone, and I don’t know you at all.”

Jarecki plays around with foreshadowing a bit too much for the film’s own good. But “All Good Things” takes odd, dark and stunning turns as we find ourselves pulled from a melodrama about a marriage in trouble to a crime mystery.

It’s not the smoothest thriller. But “All Good Things” is thoroughly engrossing, a roman a clef that chillingly ponders a puzzle and suggests solutions outlandish enough to be stranger than anything Hollywood, on its own, could make up.