Ryan Gosling has a strange acting tic, he has a tendency to look especially tense when he’s acting. Maybe, maybe, this has to do with the fact that the characters he plays are always fittingly tense – but I always expect to see him turn up for the role with creases in his brow. It’s as such that even though I had no prior knowledge of the story behind All Good Things I wasn’t surprised when his bathetic youngster turned into an especially tense man. Incidentally, one of the problems I end up having with All Good Things is the fact that Gosling’s very stoic male becomes the protagonist of the film – a somewhat sensationalised account of a marriage gone wrong. All Good Things doesn’t cover new ground, and that in itself is not the issue – good cinema is not synonymous with ingenious filmmaking (though, the crossover is there). In fact one can discern a good movie fighting to come out of the stiltedness that Andrew Jarecki creates.
What annoys me the most about All Good Things is the pacing and writing. It’s so obvious how it’s done that the entire thing just screams “Lifetime movie”. Hinchey’s script seems more intent on shocking us with the “twist” than with actually letting the story unfold, so that halfway through when things take a turn for the worse what was initially a generally languid exercise becomes agitated and quickly paced. It’s an annoying intensity that’s exacerbated by Mychel Danna’s obnoxious score. I can’t remember the last time I felt the urge to get up and slap a composer for such terribly officious work. Still, All Good Things is saved from being irredeemable by a beautiful performance from Kirsten Dunst. Sure, everyone else is buzzing about that other child actress all grown-up this year and the role that Dunst’ is offered up is nowhere as eclectic – but it’s a lovely watching her do her utmost with a role that’s undercooked. Gosling freeness is nice to observe in the first half of the movie but his intensity is overwhelming in the latter half, and not in a necessarily good way. He’s nowhere near as intrusive as Frank Langella who seems to think he’s still on the set of Frost/Nixon. He’s already playing a stifling role and his delivery makes the film come off as even more claustrophobic.
You’d walk away from All Good Things hoping that Kirsten Dunst gets a good role, and fast. It’s difficult to hate the film when she’s around to inject some life into it, which makes it all the more dismal that she leaves before the final act goes anywhere.