ALL GOOD THINGS
US, 2010, 91 minutes. Colour.
Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Philip Baker Hall, Kristen Wiig, Lily Rabe, Diane Venora.
Directed by Andrew Jarecki.
A sadly ironic title. It refers to a shop that the central couple set up, a project dear to them but which was thwarted. It remained a dream for David Marks whose story this is.
All Good Things is one of those reconstructions of an American crime which remains a mystery. They are usually made for television. However, this film was for the big screen, especially with its strong cast, which makes the proceedings more interesting.
The film opens with an older David Marks being interrogated about a murder. We merely glimpse him, but the questioning goes on throughout the film, moving the narrative along. As the introduction indicates, the film is based on actual events from the 1970s to the 2000s.
For those of us (most of us) not familiar with the characters, we really don’t know what the crime is until later in the film – and then it turns out that the interrogation is for a different crime.
David Marks is played by Ryan Gosling. He seems a pleasant if very weak-willed man who has witnessed the suicide of his mother when he was little and has never really come to terms with this experience. This is exacerbated by his dominating father, a successful businessman, very respectable until we discover his dealings and protection racket concerning the clean up of New York’s Times Square. He has very little time for his son, continually disaparaging him, and in public. Frank Langella gives a convincingly arrogant performance.
But David meets a bright young woman, Katie Mc Carthy (a vivacious Kirsten Dunst), falls in love and marries. They eventually open their shop, All Things Good. It doesn’t last as David succumbs to his father’s pressure and acts as a bagman for the protection collections. His behaviour becomes erratic, with disastrous effect for himself, for Katie and his unwillingness to have a child. The marriage cannot last. And that is where the mystery emerges.
The scene shifts to 2002. David is living incognito and in female disguise in Galveston to avoid the media as the DA re-opens his case. He becomes entangled with a tenant (Philip Baker Hall) who comes to depend on him and, to prove it, gets rid of someone who seems a threat to David, a past friend who has written a novel that is close to what happened and is now demanding money. Which leads to more violence and a strange verdict.
Because the case is still open, the film has an unsatisfactory ending for those wanting certainty. However, in its delineation of character and suggested motivations, audiences can make up their own mind.
1. The title, David Marks’ shop, his dream? The irony of the realities?
2. A crime reconstruction film, the focus on characters, possibilities, motivations?
3. The film based on a true story, the New York families and their arrogance, crime and corruption?
4. The period of the 1970s to the early 2000s? Atmosphere, situations, sets and décor, costumes? Homes and cars? New York City, business offices? The reality of the squalid aspects of Times Square? The planned changes? The countryside and country homes? The musical score?
5. The underlay of the lawyer’s interrogation of David, heard but only glimpsed? The older David? His offering the narrative thread, led on by the questions? Audience puzzle about characters and the crime?
6. David as a character, the son of his father, witnessing his mother’s death at a young age, blaming his father for making him watch it, the father’s explanation that he put his son there hoping that the mother would not jump? Her mental illness? David not dealing with it? Katie persuading him? Going to a therapist, the primal screams? His hatred of his father? Yet dominated, even passive? His understanding of parenthood, his dead mother, not wanting children? His not being his own person? Katie and the abortion? Whether to rebel against his father or not? To make his choices for Katie? Going to work for his father, giving up his dream shop, collecting the money, legal corruption? His being the older brother – the glimpses of the younger brother, and his inheriting later?
7. Sanford Marks, his talking about his own father and his achievement, the family fortune? Snobbery, Katie not being ‘one of us’? His respectability, the socials, the meals, the guests and the ambassador? His despising David, putting him down when meeting Katie? Opposing his relationship with Katie? His shadow side, the protection and the rackets in Times Square, the collection of the money, making David collect the money? The cover, the possible expose, attitude to Katie revealing the documents, telling David he should have stayed with her and given her what she wanted?
8. Katie, attractive personality, the plumbing difficulty, encountering David? Bright, wanting to be a pre-med student, in love with David, their time together, sharing, giving up so much for him? The deep feeling in both of them? The marriage? Her wanting to be a mother, the discussion with David, his lack of interest? Her becoming pregnant, revealing it to her friend, the abortion, going to the clinic, David taking the phone call and working for his father? The shop? Wealth, friends, her family? Confiding in her friends? The growing upset, decision to study medicine, getting in, David and his seeming disinterest, the clashes, his violence? Her leaving, returning? The advice of the lawyer? Going to the office, getting the documents, posting them to the authorities – who said they were personal matters and did not follow them up? Her disappearance, the continuing mystery?
9. Deborah as a friend, with David, with Katie? Their discussions? Her later turning the issues into a novel, the television interviews, her phoning David to get money from him, her death? Another mystery?
10. The change in David after Katie’s disappearance? Twenty years of living without her? The tying up of his money, not being divorced, the trust? The crime, his father? The anger at letting Katie go?
11. His disappearance once the matter came to light again? The years passing, going to Texas, disguised as a woman, jogging on the beach, the discussions with Malvern? His wanting to get support, an apartment? His plan, killing Deborah? His motives? The fight with David, the physical fight, the death, the gun? David in court, audiences believing him or not? The jury believing him? Prison for disposing unlawfully of a body?
12. Sanford and his collapse, dying alone?
13. The gallery of friends and relations, the backup to the story of David and Katie?
14. The district attorney, seeing this case as furthering her career, the investigations?
15. Audience interest in this type of family? In this type of corruption and crime scenario?