Netflix is usually the place where the bored and relaxed go to indulge in their usual comforts. A season of a TV show you liked five years ago here, a movie starring your favorite actor there. You don’t necessarily see people leave their typical likes and dislikes.
Why not use Netflix to try and discover new movies and shows that you’d never find in your “Because you watched…” folders and take a look at some of the truly weird stuff the medium has to offer? That’s what AP Party contributors Steve Lepore and Samantha Murray thought. In “We Netflixed This,” they’ll examine some of the various oddities (and possible secretly great films) available to us, thanks to Netflix’s ability to watch everything forever.
The Film: All Good Things, which comes at an interesting point in Ryan Gosling’s career. It’s the lone dud in a two-year period when Gosling starred in movies that were either huge critical hits (Blue Valentine, Drive), box office hits (The Ides of March) or both (Crazy Stupid Love). What’s a little bit of a bummer is that it would be two years between this period and his next busy season, which includes more promising but terribly executed movies like All Good Things (along with Gangster Squad, Only God Forgives, and The Place Beyond the Pines) than anything actually good.
Gosling plays David Marks, a trumped-up version of a real guy named Robert Durst. Marks is born into old money, but rejects it to take a life in Vermont with his lower-class girlfriend, Katie McCarthy (Kirsten Dunst). They get married and seem pretty happy. Then… he gets forced back to the city, which coincides with him admitting he doesn’t want children, and her restating her interest in going to medical school.
The problem with the movie is that the couple can’t really organically grow apart. Everything just kind of either takes too soft a touch or violently lurches from plot point to plot point. At one point Katie does coke with Kristen Wiig to forget her troubles. Kristen Wiig is the best part of this movie, I think.
The movie has a weirdly interesting supporting cast, with excellent credits to its name (Frank Langella, Lily Rabe, Phillip Baker Hall, an almost unrecognizable Nick Offerman) and everyone kind of puts in decent work. The problem is Gosling, who’s not suited for this role at all, and in no way pulls off the menacing psychopath he’s supposed to be.
But the more important question is what the hell is going on with Ryan Gosling’s career, which we address shortly before a screening of the not great, but not terrible All Good Things.
Steve Lepore: So, Samantha Murray, true or false: Ryan Gosling is slowly becoming this generation’s Leonardo DiCaprio with seemingly not as pristine taste.
Samantha Murray: I actually feel that Robert Pattinson may be this generation’s Leonardo DiCaprio with less pristine taste (and also less talent but I think it’s fair to say it’s too soon to call that one FOREVER), but Ryan Gosling occupies a particular swoony place on the pop culture landscape.
I would say that what Leo and Gosling have in common is that they were catapulted into fame by being the leading man in a Big, Big Love Story and have made concerted efforts to get away from it, with varying success. In spite of all of the award-bait type movies that he has made, you say Ryan Gosling, I’m thinking The Notebook. And then, if pressed further, Crazy Stupid Love.
I think in some ways, Gosling has been turned into a Manic Pixie Dream Boy. Part of that is because, when he became famous, he was dating Rachel McAdams. That kind of life-imitates-art thing makes people go NUTS (Hi again, Robert Pattinson). So he comes as a ready-made romantic hero and it’s easy to project upon that. But then there was that summer that he was just popping up everywhere doing things like breaking up fights in Brooklyn and doing talk shows with his dog.
And, of course, his open letter to the MPAA about Blue Valentine. Basically, all of these things have combined to turn him into the “Hey Girl” meme.
While those things continue to make him popular with women, he’s been courting a decidedly different audience than The Notebook and CSL crowd in a lot of his recent work. I think that’s made it hard for him to be taken as seriously as he seems to want, because it’s like Awww, look, my hipster boyfriend thinks he’s a director now. Okay, honey.
And that concludes the report from Senior Heartthrob Correspondent Samantha Murray.
Lepore: … I see. What do you think Ryan Gosling SHOULD be doing, as we head into a movie that is clearly a misfire on both a critical and commercial level?
Murray: You know, I’m not really sure. I think it seems apparent that people like him best as a Leading Man type, but if that’s not how he wants to be seen, then it wouldn’t make sense for him to pursue those kinds of roles. The thing is that he just doesn’t work THAT often, so now he’s becoming one of those famous-because-they’re-famous types. I haven’t sought out a Ryan Gosling movie since 2011.
Lepore: Well, I think we may be done here, but let’s share with the audience how we think Kirsten Dunst almost ruins one of our shared favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Because it’s a great movie that we both love, and that we’ve bonded over. But we’ve also bonded over much Kirsten Dunst kind of sucks in it.
Murray: In the interest of being Fair and Balanced, I should mention that I irrationally dislike Kirsten Dunst and always have.
Lepore: You admit it’s irrational, but is it from anywhere? Is she just one of those people where you just think her personhood is wrong?
Murray: I was born this way.
Lepore: The first half of this movie is fine, right? I mean, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and as I said during the film, it seems headed for kind of a poor man’s American Hustle, before that even existed. There’s some good beats to it, really fun supporting turns from Kristen Wiig, Lily Rabe, Nick Offerman, etc. I’m not wrong in thinking that this movie is just fine for about the first 40% of it, right?
Murray: It’s pretty good. Well acted, some interesting shots. The one big flaw in the early part of the movie, I would say, is that they don’t really devote enough time to Dunst and Gosling’s characters falling in love. You don’t really know what she sees in him, besides the obvious. They meet and all of a sudden are married and living in Vermont doing their hippie-dippie thing. Very soon after that, they’ve been brought back to New York so he can work for his father’s corrupt real estate business and that’s when things get bad for them. Of the part of the movie where they’re together, I want to say 7% is them falling in love and the rest is a sloooow deterioration.
Lepore: Yeah, it explores the same themes as Blue Valentine, but where that movie continuously sketches depth into their past and present, this movie just tears pages out of more interesting movies and says “Well, now this happens because we have to keep pulling them apart!”
Towards the end of her character’s life, Kirsten Dunst claims she doesn’t really know anything about Ryan Gosling, and I’m pretty sure you could say that about every character in this movie with the exception of Dunst. And the movie is far less a two-person movie than Blue Valentine is.
Murray: That was by necessity though. Dunst’s character winds up going “missing.” If they continued following her faithfully, wouldn’t be much of a “mystery.” I also thought she was going to die probably every two and a half minutes from the middle of the movie until her “disappearance.”
This movie was very heavy-handed with the darkness and the moody music.
Lepore: And in Gosling’s wardrobe and hair choices.
Murray: That was bleak.
What I did think was interesting was that Gosling’s character was basically an homage to Anthony Perkins in Psycho. We begin with our good-looking but seemingly innocuous fellow who is a little bit off but seems fine UNTIL.
They are very much shaped by dysfunctional relationships with their parents and are permanently altered by their mothers’ deaths. There is not just cross-dressing, but fully assuming a feminine identity. There is the string of murders all tied together to cover up for the initial one. The closing scene of both movies is very similar, with the solo closeup on them “talking” to themselves in a confined space.
Some things, like the closing scene, are stylistic choices that the director probably made. Some things are based on a true story, so… that guy’s just a psycho.
Lepore: The second half of the movie definitely starts to feel like someone pitched this to a studio as “What if I told you there was a real life guy who was like that thing in the movie!”
Man, this movie is just not capable of landing the murder mystery, which is more or less the entire second half. There’s this whole complicated subplot of Gosling assuming his feminine identity and befriending Phillip Baker Hall, who thinks David Marks is mute, but then doesn’t, but then also kind of loves him, I think?
Also, Ryan Gosling is wearing just the shittiest aging make-up I have ever seen. I will be very upset if this is how Ryan Gosling ages.
Murray: The aging is SO BAD.
The movie spends so long hemming and hawing over the murder mystery and then just sort of puts a bow on everything really quickly at the end. Instead of drawing out the tension to make it more satisfying when it’s finally revealed, it just sort of flops. It leaves you frustrated, because when they unveil what should be a gasp moment, you’re just kind of like… well, duh.
Lepore: It doesn’t help that the real-life story is boring as hell. David Marks turns out to just be living as a real estate agent in Florida now. I get that it’s supposed to be ironic, but it just feels so unsatisfying.
Murray: What I found to be really bizarre is that when I was Googling this story, there’s really… not much juice to be found.
And that is very curious, considering it’s a story about a wealthy man from a dynasty-type family involved in seedy business that almost definitely killed his wife, his best friend and a neighbor, and had some curious cross-dressing tendencies. There is NOTHING to say about any of this?
Lepore: Well, there is a lawsuit. Have you seen what the lawsuit is particularly centered on? It’s pretty funny.
Murray: The depiction of the father, right?
Lepore: From a Wall Street Journal story on it:
Durst attorney Richard Emery wrote a letter on Sept. 8 to Magnolia and the film’s director, Andrew Jarecki, warning: “It is currently our plan to sue Mr. Jarecki and Magnolia if you distribute this film.” The letter followed a July 2, 2008 missive from Mr. Emery in which the Dursts took issue with “the film’s false depiction of their family and their family-owned company as criminal collaborators in the prostitution and drug rings that plagued Time Square in the 1970s.”
The July 2008 letter also says “the script is inaccurate when it depicts that Robert Durst was present when his mother died or observed her death. He was not.”
So basically, the family is suing — not for portraying Robert Durst/David Marks as a potential murderer of his wife, one other man and conspiring to kill a third person — but because they suggested the family was involved with hookers and a small detail about the mother dying.
Murray: Makes sense. It certainly wasn’t going to be about anything else. I read somewhere that they gave the guy that Gosling’s character is based on his share of the inheritance with the stipulation that he just… goes away.
Which, all things considered, is not a bad idea, given the unsettling tendency of people close to him to go missing or die.
Lepore: It’s just an unpleasant character, not that that’s even a problem. This whole movie’s a mess for pretty much every character except Kristen Wiig’s. Let’s watch Blue Valentine instead.
- Seriously guys, Blue Valentine is on Netflix as well. Go watch it, it’s so good. If we keep doing these we’ll probably get to it at some point, so you might as well.
- Maybe All Good Things was just slightly ahead of its time, title-wise, as Sam loved it: “Maybe I just watch too much Investigation Discovery but I automatically fill in ‘must come to an end’ and it’s really ominous.” Please go find the Law & Order noise and complete this joke.
- Steve: “This movie ends with Ryan Gosling shooting John Lennon, right?” Seriously, this movie was made for $20 million, and maybe six and a half was spent on makeup. Not million, just six and a half dollars.