All Good Things (9/13/12)

All Good ThingsMovie Two Hundred Ten

All Good Things is the dramatized recount of an actual unsolved murder case.

Based on the real events leading up to the trial of Robert Durst, renamed David Marks (Ryan Gosling) for the film. David Marks is the son of a wealthy real estate mogul, Sanford Marks (Frank Langella) who meets and eventually weds a young middle class woman named Katie (Kirsten Dunst). David rejects his father’s business plans and the young couple move from New York to Vermont and start a little shop they name All Good Things. David’s father convinces him to move back to New York and get involved in the family business and David’s demeanor begins to change. Soon, Katie mysteriously disappears and David is suspected of murder.

I had never heard of All Good Things before browsing for Ryan Gosling movies on Netflix (yes, I’ll admit it). What drew me to All Good Things is the true nature of the film, and even though some “based on true event” movies can come off as hokey I thought much of All Good Things worked quite well. I was not familiar with the actual case so the story was all new to me, which I think helped sell some of the ideas that the film interjects supposedly based on new “evidence”. So, while the film is based on reality, it doesn’t hinge its own success on that realism.

As a die-hard Ryan Gosling fan, I was actually very pleased with his performance in All Good Things, which is not very surprising. What is surprising is Kirsten Dunst’s performance didn’t bore me and I would even go as far as saying this is one of her better performances ever. The film builds a great tension that literally starts as a calm love story and escalates to a thrilling climax. David’s progression from mostly normal to his break with reality is also handled well, though explanations for it are glossed over in the last act. Immediately after the film was over, I wanted to know more about the actual case and I consider that a sign of a good movie.

If All Good Things had merely been a fictional thriller, it would have been just OK but considering the story is largely based on truth, I think that adds to the allure of it. The film isn’t perfect and it does drag in spots, but the electrifying performances by Gosling and Dunst really captivated me. I’m not sure if All Good Things is a film I would choose to revisit any time soon, but it’s certainly a film I would recommend for anyone seeking a true crime thriller.

I give it 4 Ryan Gosling makes a surprisingly ugly woman out of 5.

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Melancholia (5/5/12)

MelancholiaMovie One Hundred Eleven

Melancholia is a film by polarizing filmmaker Lars Von Trier about two sisters and their relationship as a planet hurtles toward Earth.

The film opens with several super slow motion shots of some of the events to come, including the planet, Melancholia, from space. The movie then begins with the incredibly lavish wedding of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) who acts, for lack of a better word, strangely. She notices a red star in the sky and her sister’s husband (Kiefer Sutherland) says it’s Antares. The next day the star is missing from the sky. The second half of the film focuses on the other sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and how the family deals with Melancholia, each in vastly different ways.

I am pleased that I was able to give a brief summary of Melancholia without giving much away in terms of the plot. If you have seen Von Trier’s last film, Antichrist, you may be aware at how obtuse and plodding his films can be and Melancholia is a bit more structured, but still esoteric. Now, this is not a bad film. In fact, it’s a visually stunning film for the most part. Where Melancholia (and Antichrist before it) fail, is in some of the character design. While I was never completely miffed by some of their actions, there were times when I had a hard time believing them.

The underlying message of Melancholia, if you can call it that, is depression. Justine is obviously depressed, almost comatose in the second half, and her central character is not one I identified with. I enjoyed watching Melancholia, but I would have a hard time recommending it. Melancholia has some very beautiful and interesting scenes and when it ended my mind lingered on it, but I would doubtfully ever watch it again.

I give it 3 lightning fingers out of 5.

PS – My wife and I watched this during the Supermoon for a little added “oomph”

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