Everybody’s Fine - Film Review

Posted on 19. Dec, 2009 by in Film/TV

by Brent Simon

A sensitively told remake of Giuseppe Tornatore’s same-named 1991 Italian film, Everybody’s Fine slots in respectably as the holiday season’s obligatory commercial drama of familial reconciliation.
Robert De Niro stars as Frank Goode, a blue-collar retiree and recent widower from a small, south-central suburban New York burgh who, in the wake of a sudden rash of visit cancellations by his adult children, embarks on an impromptu road trip to individually reconnect with his kids. Repeatedly unable to link up with his youngest son Robert, a painter, Frank then cycles through advertising executive Amy (Kate Beckinsale) and her family, orchestral percussionist Robert (Sam Rockwell) and Las Vegas dancer Rosie (Drew Barrymore), slowly coming to realize there may be significant elements of their lives to which he is not privy.
A straightforward description of the movie’s plot is fairly pedestrian, and there exists the possibility of it slipping into something much more maudlin in the wrong hands. But the material benefits greatly from the elevating direction of adapter Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine), who imbues the film with the rootedness of smart, small details (Frank’s brown Member’s Only jacket and 35mm camera, a wine stocker’s cheery ignorance) and winning supporting characters. If the metaphorical subtext is sometimes writ large, one doesn’t hold it against the film too heartily.
Mostly vacuumed free of agitation, De Niro also gets a chance to work in a more purely reactive mode than he has in a long time. There’s a quiet patina of regret to the proceedings, particularly in a notable, reflective conversation with Rosie, and a more mannered dream sequence in which Frank queries his children about their dissembling as he remembers them — as shifty elementary school age kids.
The themes of empty nest parental disconnection totally mark this as a boomer-specific story, but Everybody’s Fine is also about the secrets we keep in families — sometimes unwittingly at first, to safeguard delicate or overly fretful loved ones — that then snowball into bigger and bigger deals. If that’s not emotionally resonant fodder for the holiday season, I don’t know what is.

(PG-13, 2 1/2 out of 5)
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