All Good Things 

True, But Strange: All Good Things only manages to be "movie" unhappy.

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The opening minutes of All Good Things—featuring home-movie footage of an apparently happy family with plenty of dark stuff going on behind the scenes—suggest that director Andrew Jarecki might be looking for common ground with his best work, the mesmerizing documentary Capturing the Friedmans. But he clearly doesn’t know quite what to do when the material here takes similar bizarre turns.

The fact-based story opens in the 1970s, with David Marks (Ryan Gosling)—scion to a powerful New York real-estate empire led by his father (Frank Langella)—trying to carve out his own path when he marries free-spirited Katie (Kirsten Dunst) and they open up a Vermont health-food store together. But it’s hard to resist the call of wealth, and David eventually joins the family business—leading to a dark change of character that justifiably alarms Katie.

Jarecki and screenwriters Marcus Hinchley and Marc Smerling build slowly to the more suspenseful story elements, allowing the couple’s idyllic early years to take root. Dunst turns in an impressive performance as a simple girl who finds that the man she loves is disappearing into a scary place, even as the flashback framing structure makes it clear that things may not end well for her.

They don’t end well for the movie, either. Gosling’s performance is atypically unsteady from the outset, but it goes completely off the rails once David flees New York and takes on a wig-wearing female alias and befriends an eccentric veteran (Philip Baker Hall) in Texas. While every weird element of this story may be based in reality, Jarecki never manages to ground it in enough human emotion to carry us through. Every unhappy family may be unhappy in a different way, as Tolstoy wrote, but the family in All Good Things is unhappy in ways that feel like they’re only happening in a movie, not a home movie.

ALL GOOD THINGS

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Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella
Rated R

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