“It’s encouraging,” director Andrew Jarecki says of being featured On Demand. “It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves over the next few years. You might have a shot at getting to the 300 million Americans who don’t actually go to the movies.”
Jarecki is known for his critically-acclaimed film Capturing the Friedmans, and he applied that documentary approach to researching the true story that forms the basis of All Good Things. He and co-writer Marc Smerling delved into more than nine months of investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Kathie Durst in 1982, and the suspicion that fell upon her husband Robert Durst, the quietly disturbed scion of a massively wealthy family who was never tried. Smerling says that the names in the script were only changed from the real people in order to give the actors more leeway to play the behind-closed-doors scenes about which the true conversations can never be known – and not to protect against lawsuits threatened by the Durst family.
So, although Kirsten Dunst is not technically playing Kathie Durst, she still met with her family to learn as much as she could about her. “It’s a very delicate situation when you’re in a room with someone who has lost a family member and doesn’t know where they are or what happened or anything,” Dunst says. “You feel powerless, and I wouldn’t feel right being intrusive in any way. I just listened mostly. I don’t think you can get over anything like that. If my brother went missing and I had no idea where or what happened, I would never get over that. No way.”
“Yes, we changed the names,” she continues, “but also I feel like these stories should get told. You can’t think you can get away with these things just because you’re wealthy – it happened with O.J. – it happens all the time. Money always overrules for the most part. So I think that this family – Kathie’s family – I’m really happy that we’re telling this story. That’s how I felt about it. I never felt worried about making it. And all that [lawsuit] stuff is good gossip for us anyways. It’s good publicity in the end.”
The movie is partially a love story as well, though, as Dunst’s Katie Marks is the only person to reach out to Gosling’s David Marks, an obviously troubled man who wants nothing to do with his cold, domineering father Sanford Marks (Frank Langella) and his powerful family’s real estate business. For a time, they did live happily together when he was following his dream of running a health food store called ‘All Good Things,’ but when he’s drawn back into that world, things start to go sour.
“They were married for quite some time,” Dunst notes about the tense relationship, “and you don’t just up and leave someone because they’re going through a hard time. I think when they moved to New York, she probably just thought, ‘Go to therapy, that will work.’ I think when you’re immersed in an unhealthy relationship at that point, you can’t see as clearly as you used to. This happens all the time. You get immersed in a really unhealthy thing, and you can’t see your way out of it, and she didn’t really have a big group of friends, and I feel like she didn’t want to go back home. She didn’t have the money to take care of going to medical school, and he had the money that she could do that with, so I think she was put in a difficult position there.”
She has her theories why that therapy didn’t take, too. “I think it was a different time. I think therapy was something that was emasculating probably, or not something that was talked about. This man witnessed his mother commit suicide in front of him – Robert Durst did. Had he had the right help at a young age, sure, but he was in this weird powerful family, he was probably raised by nannies, and didn’t have a mother.”
The Robert Durst story doesn’t end with Kathie’s disappearance, though. He dropped out of sight for years, but he eventually went on trial in Galveston, Texas, where he’d been living in disguise as a mute woman, for the murder and dismemberment of his neighbor Morris Black (Philip Baker Hall’s Malvern Bump in the film). Jarecki also strings in the unsolved murder of Durst’s best friend Susan Berman (Lily Rabe’s Deborah Lehrman), who was killed just days before she was scheduled to talk to investigators.
“I always think that true stories are so interesting,” Dunst explains, giving her reasons for being fascinated with this story. “This man got away with three murders potentially. The guy got off on self defense, and he chopped up someone’s body and threw it in the water. That’s crazy. I think that money and power and all these things – it’s a fascinating story. But also it’s a wonderful love story too which makes everything really complicated. It’s actually true, and there are some crazy things that happen.”