Greetings again from the darkness. Who among us isn’t intrigued by a real life “unsolved” murder mystery? Throw in a very wealthy New York real estate family, a never-discovered body, an executed friend, and a horrible childhood trauma and it is certain to draw the attention of filmmaker Andrew Jarecki. Jarecki’s film Capturing the Friedmans won numerous awards and is among the best documentaries ever made. He has a knack with dark family secrets.
In the film, Ryan Gosling plays David Marks, disenchanted son of Real Estate mogul Sanford Marks (a powerful Frank Langella), who witnessed the grisly suicide of his mother when he was very young. David meets the energetic and affectionate Katie (Kirsten Dunst) and the two dreamers escape Daddy’s clutches and head to Vermont to open a health food store. Finally wilting under pressure from Sanford, the couple returns to the city and David joins the family business. The good things are soon to end.
Since much of the real life story is still a mystery, Jarecki does a nice job in assembling pieces from the trial records. Along the way, we meet David’s friend Deborah Lehrman (Lilly Rabe), an acclaimed writer who seems to always be there for David … as he is for her. We witness the transformation of David from loving husband to mentally disturbed murder suspect.
Jarecki gives us some guidance on what might have happened and how the plan could have been executed, but we’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that there was not much happiness associated with this family, despite the wealth and 42nd Street real estate holdings.
The acting in the film is tremendous. Gosling, Dunst and Langella are top notch. Yes, Ms. Dunst provides what is easily her best screen performance ever. Support work from Lily Rabe, Phillip Baker Hall, Nick Offerman and Kristen Wiig is all strong and believable. This one will give you the creeps … and rightly so.
A brief overview of the real story: Seymour Durst is the real life NY real estate mogul, whose son Robert stood trial and was also accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen. Author Susan Berman wrote “Easy Street”, was friends with Robert, and was the daughter of a Las Vegas mob boss. She was murdered, execution-style, and the case was never solved … though police believe it could be linked to the disappearance of Kathleen Durst.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you believe the best thrillers are based on real life mysteries OR you want to see Kirsten Dunst in her best ever performance (yes, better than Spider-Man)
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: real life murder mysteries give you the creeps OR you don’t want to give your spouse any ideas!