Blu-ray: Worth a Look
3.5 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: March 29th, 2011
Movie Release Year: 2010
Release Country: United States
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All Good Things

Review Date April 13th, 2011 by
Overview - A love story and murder mystery based on the most notorious unsolved murder case in New York history. The original screenplay uses newly discovered facts, court records and speculation as the foundation for an imaginative spellbinding story of family, obsession, love and loss.
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: Blu-ray,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc,BD-Live (Profile 2.0)
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
    Length:101
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):1.78:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround
    Subtitles/Captions: English SDH,Spanish Subtitles
    Special Features: Audio Commentaries
    Deleted Scenes
    Featurettes
    Interviews
    Theatrical Trailers
    Movie Studio: Magnolia
    Release Date: March 29th, 2011

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

3.5 Stars out of 5

Unsolved mysteries often make fascinating, if exploitative documentaries, and occasionally a good feature film. 'All Good Things,' based on the strange case of a New York socialite's disappearance and two tangential murders that occurred years later, presses the right buttons as it explores the twisted personality of the prime suspect and bizarre world he navigated. Director Andrew Jarecki creates a fine period feel, recreating the 1970s and the freewheeling attitudes that pervaded the decade, and draws excellent performances from his professional cast, but the story's open-ended nature somewhat hampers the narrative and keeps this well-made picture from achieving complete success.

I first happened upon 'All Good Things' partway through on a cable channel a few months ago, and the film's sinister mood and atmosphere of impending doom wormed their way under my skin and made me eager to watch the movie from the beginning. Though I was unfamiliar with the true-life tale of Robert Durst, whose wife Kathie mysteriously disappeared in 1982 and has never been found, I quickly became intrigued by the case and the events and motivations that fueled it. All the ingredients for a tabloid tantalizer are here - rich, powerful New York family; aloof, arrogant patriarch; recalcitrant son with enough mental issues to baffle Dr. Freud; innocent, disillusioned wife; and several quirky friends. There's sex, drug use, domestic violence, cross-dressing, and personal revelations galore. 'Dateline NBC' couldn't have written the script any better.

Still, this isn't a straight docudrama. The names have been changed to protect both the innocent and guilty, and elements of the story have been altered and embellished, but the plot is no less riveting. David Marks (Ryan Gosling), the sullen, reluctant heir to his Donald Trump-like dad's Manhattan real estate empire, meets the lovely Katie (Kirsten Dunst), a tenant in one of his family's buildings, in the early 1970s and somehow attracts the fresh-faced, sensitive girl from a tight-knit, middle-class Long Island clan. Though David's father, Sanford (Frank Langella), disapproves of the match, the couple embarks upon a life together, fleeing the pressures of the Big Apple for the tranquility and isolation of Vermont, where they open a health food store named All Good Things. Their idyllic existence prematurely ends when the domineering Sanford lures David back to New York and into the family business. The down-to-earth pair quickly get sucked into the exclusive city social scene, and David's refusal to procreate, as well as his controlling, chauvinistic attitude, put a strain on the marriage. Violence erupts, and Katie soon realizes it's much tougher to divorce a powerful family than it is to marry into one.

To successfully tell a tale that has no satisfactory conclusion, there must be layered, complex characters, and 'All Good Things' has them - in spades. Sure, there are plenty of absorbing plot developments, but it's the characters who carry the day, and screenwriters Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling draw them with insight and nuance. This isn't so much a film of what happens next, but rather why do things happen and what leads the characters to make the choices they do? And trying to psychologically dissect them as we witness their often off-kilter actions keep us involved.

The trouble is, after Katie disappears - around the one-hour mark - and the story fast forwards to the early part of this century, the movie loses steam, even as the violence ramps up. Perhaps the sketchier details of that time period muddy the waters too much, or perhaps the slowdown is merely the result of losing a character who is such a central force and supplies the tale's heart and soul. Whatever the cause, the goodness of 'All Good Things' vanishes with Katie, and the creepy remains detach us emotionally from the narrative. And that's not a good thing.

Gosling is an excellent actor, and he imbues David with a maddening ambiguity that suits the role well. His placid façade belies the angst and turmoil churning beneath, and it's almost impossible to read his thoughts. His explosions catch us off guard, and we react just as Katie does - with horror, fear, and bewilderment. Yet as strong as Gosling is, the film belongs unequivocally to Dunst, who files arguably her best portrayal as the sweet, naïve, and ultimately betrayed and bitter Katie. Natural and endearing, yet with an inner strength and fierce determination, Dunst brings Katie to life, and we feel and mourn her loss, both because we bond with her character and because the film can't fill the void left by her.

Langella contributes another razor sharp portrayal as the manipulative, egomaniacal father, and Philip Baker Hall asserts himself well as a cranky neighbor with whom David develops a close relationship years after his wife's disappearance. Yet all the good acting can't quite help 'All Good Things' realize its early promise. It's still an often fascinating examination of a dysfunctional relationship and how personal demons, familial pressures, and the scars of youth can overtake and destroy what looks on the surface to be a charmed existence, but it falls just shy of becoming the memorable, haunting picture it could - and should - have been.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'All Good Things' comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray case. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Upon insertion of the disc, a few previews precede the full-motion main menu with music.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc,BD-Live (Profile 2.0)
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
    Length:101
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH,Spanish Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentaries
    Deleted Scenes
    Featurettes
    Interviews
    Theatrical Trailers
    Movie Studio: Magnolia
    Release Date: March 29th, 2011

Video Review

4 Stars out of 5

'All Good Things' comes to Blu-ray sporting a pleasing, if not spectacular, 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer that features a slightly washed out palette, but good clarity and contrast. A modicum of grain lends the image welcome grit and a realistic feel, and exteriors exude nice depth. Colors don't pop, but look natural, as do fleshtones, which remain stable and true throughout the film's course. The garish '70s fashions sporadically perk up the picture, with even the most intricate patterns resisting shimmers. A shot of Dunst through a sliding glass door exhibits a crystal clear reflection, but dimensionality comes at a premium, usually during close-ups, which show off facial details well.

Black levels are solid, but some noise creeps into the background of low-light sequences, most noticeably around the one-hour mark. Fine details are generally clear, and texture comes through nicely on various fabrics. No digital enhancements or imperfections muck up the works, keeping this transfer clean, sleek, and faithful to the original source.

Audio Review

4 Stars out of 5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track emits clear, dynamic sound that's surprisingly detailed for a film of this sort. Plenty of ambience spreads out among the rears, and when coupled with noticeable stereo separation, the effect is a wide, involving audio field that really draws us into the film. The Steely Dan tunes burst with fidelity and tonal depth, and the instrumental score fills the room well. Though there's not much bass to speak of, the low-end of the range scale possesses nice resonance. Dialogue, of course, takes center stage, and it's always well prioritized and easy to understand, even when mumbled. Happily, no distortion issues arise, nor are there any instances of surface noise or drop-out. This is by no means a bells-and-whistles track, but what's here is crisply presented and more nuanced than one might initially expect.

Special Features

3.5 Stars out of 5

A decent array of extras round out the disc and provide some nice context and perspective on this true-life mystery.

  • Audio Commentaries – Two commentaries are included, but the flagship entry is most definitely the track featuring director Andrew Jarecki and Robert Durst, the man upon whom the screenwriters based the character of David Marks. Jarecki acts as interviewer, pumping Durst for information about the aspects of his life depicted on film and whether they were portrayed accurately. Durst is a lively subject who seems to be quite frank in his appraisals of events and individuals, and it's fascinating to get his take on things, even if he remains a bit vague about critical elements of his experience. The other commentary features Jarecki and screenwriters Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling, who provide a more traditional discussion that focuses almost exclusively on character analysis and the veracity of various scenes. We do hear a bit about casting, locations, and other production topics, but the remarks only scratch the surface. If you're fascinated by the story, then this commentary will pique your interest; if you want to learn about filmmaking, it will not.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 5 minutes) – Four excised scenes supply additional character beats and one bombshell bit of information. Though not essential to the film's overall fabric, they are more interesting to watch than the typical vapid fare that turns up on most discs. Definitely worth checking out.
  • Featurette: "'All Good Things': Truth in Fiction" (HD, 26 minutes) – Director Jarecki and screenwriters Hinchley and Smerling discuss the meticulous research and extensive interviews that were done in order to present the most accurate story possible, while Gosling and Langella analyze their respective characters in this somewhat dry, repetitive, and overlong featurette. It would have been interesting to get Dunst's perspective as well, but unfortunately she does not appear in the piece.
  • Featurette: "Back in Time: Researching the Original Story" (HD, 23 minutes) – This absorbing compendium of interviews allows a Durst family business associate, Kathie's relatives, neighbors, friends, a detective, and the assistant district attorney the chance to recall the real-life principals in the drama, their drug use, the troubles in the Durst marriage, and the last days before Kathie's disappearance. They all also speculate on the guilt of Bob Durst.
  • "Wrinkles in Time: Ryan Ages" (HD, 2 minutes) – Time-lapse photography condenses Gosling's hours in the makeup chair to a couple minutes, as we witness his transformation from thirtysomething to sixtysomething.
  • "Beneath the Surface of 'All Good Things': Interview with Andrew Jarecki" (HD, 58 minutes) – The film's director talks for almost an hour about a variety of topics - research and development, the characters, the rapport between the actors, the casting of Langella, the rehearsal process, the music. Some of it is interesting, some of it is repetitive, but there's no question it goes on too long. Jarecki is well-spoken and intelligent, but the static nature of the piece often trumps the content and makes staying involved with the discussion a chore.
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD, 6 minutes) – Previews for 'Vanishing on 7th Street,' 'Black Death,' 'Monsters,' and 'Four Lions,' as well as a promo for the HDNet television network, are also included on the disc.

Final Thoughts

The superior work of Kirsten Dunst and, to a lesser degree, Ryan Gosling distinguish 'All Good Things,' which depicts one of New York's most notorious unsolved cases with elegance and insight. Though the film lags a bit after its first hour, it remains an absorbing psychological study that's well worth checking out. Above average video, nuanced audio, and a healthy spate of supplements enhance this little-known release that deserves a wider audience.

Sale Price $11.79
List Price $16.98
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3rd Party $7.79
Usually ships in 24 hours
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc,BD-Live (Profile 2.0)
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/MPEG-4 AVC
    Length:101
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH,Spanish Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentaries
    Deleted Scenes
    Featurettes
    Interviews
    Theatrical Trailers
    Movie Studio: Magnolia
    Release Date: March 29th, 2011