| Kirsten Dunst ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and the "Spider-Man" trilogy) and Ryan Gosling ("Half Nelson," "The Notebook" and the upcoming "Blue Valentine") star in this love story that evolves into a mystery thriller.
Director Andrew Jarecki ("Capturing the Friedmans") brings this fictitious drama to the screen based on the most notorious missing person case in New York history. The story is inspired by events that took place between 1971 and 2003 in Texas, Los Angeles and New York.
David Marks (Gosling) is the oldest son of powerful patriarch Sanford Marks (Frank Langella from "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" and "Frost/Nixon"), who is one of the top five property owners in Manhattan. His sleazy real estate domain includes some of the worst buildings on 42nd Street in Times Square that house peep shows, strip clubs, massage parlors and porn movie theaters.
David suffered a traumatic event at age 7 that has affected his personality. He saw his mother commit suicide by jumping off the roof of their house.
David is introduced to us in 1971 coming out of a neighborhood grocery wearing a tuxedo. Although not a plumber, he attempts to fix a leak under the kitchen sink of an attractive tenant in a 53rd Street apartment. She turns out to be Katie McCarthy (Dunst), who recently moved in after living in her motherís house in Long Island. He takes her to a party at his dadís mansion.
Davidís father wants him to go into the family real estate business. David has other ideas. He and this very enthusiastic young woman from a lower middle-class background fall in love. They move to Vermont and get married in a no-frills civil ceremony.
They open the titular health food store featuring organically grown products. Their happiness and carefree hippie existence comes to an end when Sanford finally persuades David that his bride deserves a better life.
They sell the store and move back to Manhattan. He works for his fatherís real estate holding company collecting rent from shady tenants. Besides his salary, David is the beneficiary of a number of family trusts with ironclad clauses protecting him against divorce.
David buys them a weekend place on a lake in Westchester. Katie unexpectedly gets pregnant and their marriage starts falling apart. They begin living separate lives after David forces Katie to have an abortion. Katie graduates from college and then gets accepted at medical school. David shows signs of a ballistic temper and then Katie mysteriously disappears in 1982.
The movie fast forwards to November 2000 and abruptly veers off in another direction. Westchester District Attorney Janice Rizzo reopens the investigation into Katieís disappearance after uncovering new evidence. David decides he wants to change his identity and get away for awhile. He shows up in Galveston, Texas, wearing a blonde wig and womenís clothing.
He strikes up a friendship with Malvern Bump (Philip Baker Hall from "Magnolia," "The Insider" and "The Truman Show"), an upstairs neighbor about to be evicted from an apartment building. He gets Bump to do his dirty work involving a female friend blackmailing him. David ends up testifying in a Texas court in the murder of Bump.
There are intense conversations between David and Sanford concerning his childhood and his motherís suicide. The movie makes a lot of insinuations about what really happened to Katie. It also attempts to be a character study of a disturbed individual.
The convoluted screenplay marks the debut effort by Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling. They utilize newly discovered facts and court records as the foundation for speculation. There is a running narrative of Davidís testimony interspersed with scenes of a woman in a trench coat throwing garbage bags off a bridge. They are merely confusing to the viewer at the outset. Things fall into place and become clearer at the end of the picture.
Dunst shines brightly and puts on an acting showcase worthy of awards recognition in the supporting actress category. The picture loses its luster when her character disappears. Gosling has a tough role requiring him to keep his slowly evolving transformation from Jekyll to Hyde under wraps.
A much better film with similar attributes is "Reversal of Fortune" about the Sunny von Bulow murder in which Jeremy Irons won an Oscar for his leading role.
This true crime drama seemingly impervious to logical explanation is now showing exclusively at the Glenwood Red Bridge.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"