We had a couple of phone conversations and he sent me a copy of his critically acclaimed documentary "Capturing the Friedmans." I watched it, liked it, and after a few more pleasant phone calls I met with Jarecki at a diner off Route 3 in New Jersey just outside Manhattan. With him were his co-producer Marc Smerling and screenwriter Marcus Hinchey. We spent three hours at that diner talking about Durst, my book, his movie, his plans and how much he wanted to see my two years worth of research. He wasn't convinced that Durst was a serial killer, but he thought the book was the deepest, most complete study of Durst and the various investigations that surrounded him.
I left the diner believing his next call would be to my agent to option the book. I previously met with reps from CBS and Showtime in Los Angeles in 2002 when producer Gary Smith owned the rights, but nothing materialized so I thought this could work out. I was intrigued. Jarecki called my agent, but not to buy the book. Instead, he threw us a curveball saying he wanted to hire me as a short term "consultant." In Hollywoodspeak, it was a far cheaper way for Jarecki to gain access to all my research, including the NYPD files on the Kathie Durst investigation, without having to credit the book or pay for the privilage (consider this is a guy who made a few hundred million in 1999 when he sold Moviefone to AOL).
Of course I said no.
Fast forward to 2010. Jarecki's thinly disguised Durst movie, "All Good Things," is now available on pay per view ahead of a theatrical release in December. The film was finished a couple of years ago but has been in film-hell waiting for a distributor. I heard all sorts of rumors as to why the long wait but hoped the film would eventually see the light of day. After all, a successful film would regenerate interest in the Durst story and perhaps help tie a few loose ends, maybe even draw additional interest from law enforcement. I also figured you couldn't really screw up a story that featurers three murders, two investigations, a super-wealthy New York real estate family and a cross-dressing protagonist who dismembered a guy and chucked his body parts in to Galveston Bay, right?
I ordered "All Good Things" last night, sat down with my wife and when it was over we were both somewhat disappointed, and puzzled. Jarecki did a very good job humanizing a pedophile in "Capturing the Friedman's" but his attempt at adding depth to someone like Robert Durst missed the point entirely. You can't explain away Durst's horrific actions because he smoked pot and was browbeaten by his powerful father, whom Durst blamed for the suicide of his mother. And in trying to humanize Durst, Jarecki ignored his truly terrifying secrets. Though fictionalizing the Durst story (using different names) he did follow the basic script, particularly his early relationship with Kathie. But there's little character development, a lot of stretching of the truth (Morris Black DID NOT kill Susan Berman) and an unsatisfying ending. Knowing Jarecki and his partners read the book from cover to cover (and marked it up with a few thousand Post-Its) I figured there would be a few scenes taken directly from the book (I already had conversations with my attorney). Yes, there were plenty of those, and my reporting on the death of Durst's mother was hijacked, but at the end of the day this is less a Durst movie and more of a sensationalized two-hour version of Law and Order. Jarecki also took liberties with Seymour Durst, portraying the real esate powerbroker as a silent partner in prostitution and porno houses. The Durst family owned buildings that were home to porn theaters, but I never heard anything about them getting payoffs from them. The Durst's weren't thrilled with the portrayal and have threatened a law suit.
Given the all-star cast "All Good Things" will probably generate a little more attention and buzz during its most likely very brief theatrical release in December (supposedly for Oscar consideration).
My advice? Skip the film. Read the book.