Friday, January 28, 2011

Bad Stuff in "All Good Things"

“All Good Things” is the richly ironic title of a movie about very bad things like extortion, racketeering and murder.
“Good Things” is the fiction feature debut of Andrew Jarecki, maker of the unsettling documentary “Capturing the Friedmans” in 2003. The story is based on the real life drama of Robert “Bobby” Durst, the irresponsible, screw-up eldest son of a prominent New York real estate magnate.
The Bobby Durst character of David Marks is played by Ryan Gosling. Daddy Sanford Marks is played by stage and screen great Frank Langella.
The story begins in 1971 after David’s mother has met a violent death, of which we learn more later. Dressed in a tuxedo, David performs an emergency plumbing repair for Katie (Kirsten Dunst), a pretty, free-spirited coed and one of his father’s tenants.
The physical attraction is mutual and strong, giving David direction to his otherwise rudderless life. Against his family’s objections (“She’s never going to be one of us,” dad sneers), David marries Katie and they attempt to carve a new, good life in Vermont, running a health food store called All Good Things.
The idyllic period is short-lived. Dad arrives from New York in a chauffeured limousine. He has become a major landlord of seedy peep shows and questionable businesses in the pre-cleaned up Times Square area, and he demands that David rejoin the family business as a kind of bag man.
David protests weakly, and much to Katie’s dismay they return to New York. David quickly falls into his father’s shady business dealings while Kate attempts to better herself by attending medical school. Then she becomes pregnant and Bobby, to put it mildly, is not happy.
Katie Marks disappeared as did her real-life counterpart in 1982. David Marks is strongly suspected of foul play, but there is no body and no hard evidence. The story picks up again in 2000 when the case against David is reopened. There is no dramatic conclusion to this unsavory story of power, corruption, greed and lust. David Durst is still alive and well and it has been reported that he likes this film. While the powerful acting performances of Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst cannot be denied, the story is a real bummer man; the opposite of the American Dream.

"No Strings" Feel-Good Romp

“No Strings Attached” is the opposite of a bummer. It’s a feel-good, R-rated sexy romp about the power of true romance over mere animal attraction by director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”).
Adam (Ashton Kutcher) and Emma (Natalie Portman) are friends from early teen years at summer camp. They keep on bumping into each other until they both end up in Los Angeles in their early 20s. Adam is an aspiring script writer and Emma is working toward a medical degree at a teaching hospital. The mutual attraction that has been bubbling under the surface bursts forth in an erotic one-night stand that leads to another and another. In Elizabeth Meriwether’s witty script, the couple’s stereotypical sexual roles are reversed. Adam longs for cuddling and commitment. Emma wants slam, bam, thank you m’am and back to work.
“No Strings” has an entertaining supporting cast, lead by Kevin Kline as Adam’s aging Lothario movie-star dad Alvin. British actress Ophelia Lovibond amuses as Adam’s shallow ex-girlfriend and dad’s new flame. Rapper Ludicris shows he has both acting and comic chops as Adam’s roommate Wallace. Lake Bell is outstanding as Adam’s accommodating boss, who develops an awkward, funny crush on him.
Perhaps because I went into this with such low expectations I was pleasantly surprised at the genuine laughs amidst the raunchy material. “When Harry Met Sally” and “500 Days of Summer” said it better, but “No Strings” continues Natalie Portman’s roll as a formidable, sensuous starlet. Pretty boy Ashton Kutcher knows his limitations, and he cheerfully plays them to best advantage as an incurable romantic.

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