In the darkest week of winter comes this dark and chilly mystery, made all the creepier By the fact that it is pretty close to being true.
"All Good Things" -- as in "must come to an end" -- is an unsettling piece of work By director Andrew Jarecki "Capturing the Friedmans" based on the life of "millionaire killer" Robert Durst, who beat a murder charge in Texas a few years ago and was never officially implicated in the disappearance of his beautiful young wife in 1982. Pile on the unsolved execution-style slaying of a childhood friend who had been receiving thousands of dollars from him and any filmmaker's interest would be piqued.
Jarecki doesn't push it, though. He lets the tale play out through the powerful work of Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst as his adoring wife and Frank Langella, filling every scene he has as a Manhattan real estate tycoon who owns not only a major part of the city but also those who purportedly run it.
Langella and Gosling are father and eldest son -- Sanford and David Marks -- who are always at odds despite their shared pain over the suicide of David's mother. When he was a child, he saw her fling herself from the roof of their gracious family home.
When a chance meeting brings Katie McCarthy Dunst into his life, David latches on. She is young, beautiful and perfect, he tells a friend: "There's nothing that I do that she doesn't like." Quite a change for a guy who could never do anything right in his father's high-pressure world.
Jarecki tells the story using David's own words -- testimony from a trial years later, which we later find out was for the death and dismemberment of his elderly neighbor in Texas. But his words jar with what is happening on screen. At first, David and Katie do seem to be living out a "you and me against the world" idyllic love affair. But he is lured back to the snake pit by his family's money, and Katie starts to grow up, with dreams of her own of being a nurse or even a doctor.
Gosling has become an expert in portraying these characters who are on and over the edge, and Dunst breaks her damsel in distress mode to match him in every scene. We watch as she moves from blind love to concern for her husband to defiance, anger and fear.
And then suddenly, she is gone.
David's strange odyssey does not end there, and neither does the movie. But, without the viewpoints of family and friends, all gone from his life, we observe him more clinically. The pathology that had been simmering under the surface is much more evident, but oddly, because of that, his actions are less disturbing. We expect people who are disturbed to act in disturbing ways.
Knowing the story of the real Durst ahead of time only heightens the tension in the first half of the film, which takes place in time less examined by the courts. It is there that "All Good Things" takes this true-crime mystery a few steps further, but with a restraint seldom seen at the movies.
What we don't know really is what scares us the most.