American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"All Good Things" is based on one of those true stories like Dominick Dunne used to tell so intriguingly in Vanity Fair. Let me begin with a brief summary, based on the film because I know nothing about the reality. It involves David Marks, the son of a New York family that owned valuable 42nd Street real estate in the 1970s. The property at that time was rented to strip clubs, porno shops, massage parlors and so on. The family, wealthy and private, moved in the best circles and the nature of its holdings was not widely known.
The patriarch, Sanford Marks (Frank Langella), is a commanding man who is hands-on. He often collects the rent in cash. He expects his son to enter the family business. David (Ryan Gosling) wants nothing to do with it. A free spirit of the Woodstock era, he meets Katie (Kirsten Dunst), and together they escape from New York and open a twee Vermont health foods and organic products store named, yes, All Good Things.
Sanford ratchets up the pressure. David caves in and returns to Manhattan, where his wife enjoys a luxurious but unhappy existence. She eventually discovers the nature of the family business. David, meanwhile, begins to change from the loving hippie she fell in love with. Their marriage comes apart. Katie disappears. She is never found again. David is suspected of being involved, but never charged, because he appears to have an unquestionable alibi.
And I will not reveal more. The film is the work of Andrew Jarecki, who in 2003 made the remarkable, Sundance-winning documentary "Capturing the Friedmans," about a family and its secrets; the father and one son were charged with child molestation. It's easy to see why this story appealed to him.