There are very few “good things” in this psychological thriller which is based upon a true story about the disappearance in 1982 of Kathie Durst, the wife of a real estate entrepreneur, Robert Durst. The missing woman was never found. It is unclear whether the film follows the actual story of the Dursts closely or whether the fictional version veered away somewhat from the true events.
Ryan Gosling - Wikimedia
In the film, David Marks is shown as a small boy, happily taken care of by his parents and enjoying the good life provided by his father Sanford, a successful real estate investor. The audience learns soon, however, that the happy family scenario dissipated when David’s mother jumped to her death from a building.
David (Ryan Gosling) was expected to join his father (Frank Langella) and his older brother Daniel (Michael Esper) in the family business. Sanford owned a great deal of property in New York City, renting it to strip clubs, massage parlors and other shady businesses. They were accepted in the best social circles who had no idea of the nature of their devious dealings.
David Meets Kathie
David met Katherine McCarthy (Kirsten Dunst) when his father asked him to check on a plumbing problem in one of their apartment buildings. David was on his way to a family business function and was dressed in a tuxedo when he was forced to take care of the plumbing mishap. He then took Katie along to the function to meet his father and other officials including Senator Daniel Moynihan.
Kirsten Dunst - Wikimedia
David and Kathie are Married
David and Katie were married and decided to leave New York to settle in the small town of Rutland, Vermont where they owned a Health Food store called All Good Things. After constant urging from Sanford Marks, David and Katie moved back to New York when David gave in to his father and rejoined the family business. He was able to purchase an expensive and well-appointed condo for himself and Katie, and they were happy in their new home. They were even able to have a plush weekend house on the lake in Westchester where they liked to entertain lavishly.
Their Marriage Has Problems
When David made it clear that he did not want to have children, his true nature and background came to the fore, and Katie realized that David was not the loveable, carefree hippie she thought she had married. Her dream of going to medical school was put aside when she married David, but she decided to apply and was accepted in a prestigious medical school. Her family held a congratulatory party for her, at which David was sullen and demanded that they leave the party early.
Frank Langella - Wikimedia
David Shows His Violent Tendencies
When Katie sought a separation from David, she learned that the money that she needed for medical school would no longer be there for her due to the family’s ruthless ways of dealing with financial disagreements. David showed his violent tendencies and Katie was shown with bruises on her face. They began to lead separate lives with David working in the city and Katie living at the lake house and going to school.
At this point, Katie visited David’s office in the city and rummaged through his files when he was not there. She took some documents and mailed them. Senator Moynihan’s office received the package, which appeared to show receipts from some of Sanford and Son’s shady dealings. Mr. Moynihan told his secretary to send the package back, that it was a family matter that had nothing to do with him.
Their Dog Ivan is Killed
When Katie went to see David at the condo, their dog Ivan was not there. David said he was at the kennel, but when Katie took out the trash, she saw a bloody rag which she believed held Ivan’s blood, and was upset at the sight.
David’s Memories Haunt Him
In a conversation that David had with his father, it was revealed that Sanford had left David outside to watch when his mother was about to jump from their roof. Sanford claimed that he told the nanny to take David inside. David said that was not true. Sanford admitted that he thought that if his wife saw David standing there, she would not jump.
Philip Baker Hall - Wikimedia
Katie Goes Missing
Katherine went missing after that. David said that they were at the lake and he drove Katherine to the train to go back to the city. That was the last time he saw her. The doorman said he saw her the next morning making a phone call. David was not considered a suspect. When she was missing for five days, her family offered $15,000 for information leading to her whereabouts.
David Moves to Galveston
The film takes on a bizarre turn at this point. David moved to Galveston, Texas because he could no longer bear the publicity and badgering he was receiving due to the disappearance of Kathie. David began wearing a wig and dressing like a woman. He also pretended to a tenant in his building that he was mute and could only communicate through writing on a piece of paper. The tenant’s name was Malvern Bump (Philip Baker Hall) and they eventually became good friends.
During this time, it was revealed that David had a good friend, Deborah Lehrman (Lily Rabe), who had a novel published with details highly similar to the circumstances of Kathie Marks’ death.
David and Malvern Become Friends
Meanwhile, Malvern Bump learned that he would soon be evicted from his apartment since the building was being sold. He learned that David was looking into purchasing a home and suggested to David that if it were large enough, perhaps Malvern could move in with him. David also gave Malvern the keys to his own apartment so that he could watch television when David wasn’t there since Malvern did not own a television set himself. He told Malvern he might need a favor from him in the future.
Pistol - Wikimedia
Deborah Lehrman is Found Dead
When Deborah Lehrman kept calling him on the phone, David extracted his favor from Malvern. Deborah was found dead murdered in execution style. Malvern had talked to the real estate agency and learned that David had not even put in an offer for another placed.
Malvern’s Dead Body is Discovered
When Malvern’s body was found next to the river at low tide, David was questioned by the police and told them that Malvern had come at him with a gun, they had a struggle, and the gun went off and killed Malvern. David was fearful that he would be held responsible so he took his body down to the river and dumped him in. He was never charged. When asked if he had anything to do with Deborah Lehrman’s death, he answered no.
The Case was Reopened 20 Years Later
Twenty years later, a prosecuting attorney who was seeking election, reopened the investigation into the death of Katie Marks. It is still considered a missing persons case.