In Which Ryan Gosling’s Freak Flag Flies

12/01/2010 4:00 AM |

All Good Things

Directed by Andrew Jarecki

For the first hour of All Good Things, you might be wondering what attracted director Andrew Jarecki—whose previous film was the barnstorming can’t-make-this-shit-up documentary Capturing the Friedmans (2003)—to such shopworn material, the true story of a New York scion (Ryan Gosling) who may or may not have murdered his wife (Kirsten Dunst) in 1982. But much the way Friedmans gradually unveiled the perversity behind its prosaic subject, All Good Things largely withholds the crazy until the third act, and then flies the freak flag a mile high.

Gosling is positively chilling as a slow-boil stoner psycho who abandons his dream of running a Vermont health food store with his “nice blonde shiksa” and returns to Manhattan to work for his politically connected, real-estatemogul father (Frank Langella). The actor’s uncanny feel for kink doesn’t completely emerge, however, until the later scenes, when his character, in middle age, is on the lam in drag and playing off Philip Baker Hall’s equally batshit accomplice.

Jarecki has bitten off more than he can chew in this ambitious but ultimately shallow period piece. In order to cram it all in, he relies on hackneyed devices like voice-over narration and a sound design that telegraphs any upcoming violence. He also outright steals his most striking imagery from Dressed to Kill. Still, this is one idiosyncratic genre movie and there hasn’t been a more unexpectedly funny moment in American cinema all year long than when Kristen Wiig—as friend to Dunst’s aggrieved homemaker—steals back-to-back scenes with her lush delivery of the lines “Eat your salad!” and “Motherfuckers!,” respectively.

Opens December 3