|'Durst burbles on a little too long, shows he doesn't understand empathy, let alone have it, or, in the case of the shortened but no less revelatory final episode, says something quite unbelievable'|
Andrew Jarecki's All Good Things is not a great film. After the success of Capturing The Friedmans, it is a noble attempt to move from Documentary to fiction based on a true story, but it just doesn't work. The 'for legal reasons' name change of the main character (from Robert Durst to David Marks) is indicative of the film as a whole; there's a distance to the whole thing, a distance from the truth. Ryan Gosling in drag just doesn't communicate the seriousness and shock of Durst's story.
Fast-forward fives years and Jarecki deserves enormous praise not only for the end result of The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst, but for the inception of the project to begin with. The HBO miniseries would have been easy to walk away from. Though the interview with Durst himself would have been difficult to turn down this is, after all, a story Jarecki has already dedicated substantial time to.
The form the Documentary takes is familiar, but Jarecki, who showed he understands how to make a good story compelling in Friedmans, puts small bits of spin on familiar ground to lift the material. Talking head footage is interspersed with recreation that changes from dramatic to still life setup. Each episode has a title and a concept (The Gangsters Daughter (S1E3) for instance, introduces Susan Berman and her place in the Durst nightmare), yet works as part of a chronological whole.
Jarecki's treatment of Durst is perhaps key. A near-silent interviewer from an on-film perspective (though he does get more involved the further the film goes), he'll ask a question and let Durst hang himself. Through clipped and sometimes rehearsed answers (at one point, rehearsed on screen), Durst burbles on a little too long, shows he doesn't understand empathy, let alone have it, or, in the case of the shortened but no less revelatory final episode, says something quite unbelievable. Jarecki has the winning of his subject from early on and as such rarely needs to rile him or resort to grandstanding; it's simple, clean journalism.
Yet, despite that, Jarecki doesn't let others off the hook either and there is a level of giving Durst the chance to explain himself, with the earnestness that he is, after all, innocent until proven guilty. Durst's Texan defence team, for example, give a revealing look at what 'justice' means, inside the justice system. Durst's brother, heir to the family real estate business, is doorstepped with some aplomb, but equally with entire politeness. He never contributes to the Documentary formally, never explains what he does or doesn't know, did or didn't do to Robert, but you can't say Jarecki didn't try, this time, to get all his men and get them good.
And that, when it comes down to it, is what makes The Jinx great, especially when compared to the overlong Making A Murderer: Season One, which simply wants your judgement. The Jinx works without that. It is a tale for the ages of white men with power, who see women, the law, justice and guilt as concepts to be played with. It's as much a film about our world now as it is about Robert Durst, though he is here in Jarecki's film this time, clear and scary as day.
The Jinx is playing on Sky Atlantic.