Robert DeNiro, Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Kirk Jones (based upon 1990 Italian film "Stanno tutti bene")
Eight months after the death of his wife, Frank (Robert DeNiro) envisions the perfect family holiday gathering with his four adult children including troubled David, seemingly happily married and successful Amy (Kate Beckinsale), artistic free spirit Rosie and the musically inclined Robert (Sam Rockwell). When all four end up canceling their plans to return home, Frank decides to set off on an improvisational cross-country jaunt by bus and train, against medical advice, in an effort to become the father he's never been mostly due to being married to a wonderful wife and mother who handled all things related to parenting and building relationships.
Frank? He provided and provided well. A lifelong PVC coater whose artistry can be found along the telephone wires across the country, Frank worked hard for his family and, in return, expected his family to work hard and succeed in their various, largely artistic, pursuits.
Based upon the 1990 Italian film "Stanno tutti bene," "Everybody's Fine" is being released as a holiday flick completely with a decidedly festive poster that doesn't really accurately portray the serious issues and, at times, rather sad tone of a man who has suddenly realized after his children have grown up that he doesn't really know them at all.
"Everybody's Fine" is very much DeNiro's film, despite the presence of three of Hollywood's brightest young stars in Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Drew Barrymore as children who've learned to function just fine without a guiding father and who can't and seemingly don't want to adapt to his sudden interest in rebuilding his family.
Ultimately, what we learn from Frank's trip is that he was always shielded from the truth of his family's life by a wife who didn't want to bother him and by children who didn't want to disappoint him.
David, universally accepted by the family as the troubled one, has gone missing and Frank is completely unaware.
Amy, a successful advertising exec, isn't so happily married after all and her son isn't quite the picture perfect academic all-star after all.
Rosie lives in Las Vegas, but is clearly shielding her father from the reality of her personal life and how it has unfolded.
Robert, as well, isn't the orchestral conductor that Frank has always been told. Rather, he's a simple percussionist whose musical promise seems to have gone largely unfulfilled.
Over the course of his trip across the country, where he is met largely with resistance and distance, Frank becomes more and more determined to reunite with his family. Of course, all of this will lead to family secrets, both joyful and tragic, being revealed and the fabric of their lives being weaved together once again.
While it's satisfying to watch DeNiro stretch his acting chops a bit again after far too many middle-of-the-road comedies like "Meet the Parents," "Everybody's Fine" simply too formulaic and predictable to ultimately satisfy. Especially towards film's end, DeNiro does indeed have a few moments to shine and shine he does. Unfortunately, along the way we go through the awkward motions of manufactured conflicts, unconvincing father/child moments and, of course, a personal tragedy for Frank that ultimately brings everyone together.
Of the supporting players, only Drew Barrymore really shines here infusing Rosie with a sweetness and vulnerability that transcends the words she's given to speak in Kirk Jones's adaptation of the original script. When Barrymore and DeNiro are together onscreen, the results are heartbreaking as father and daughter struggle to dance around words long left unspoken. Both Beckinsale and Rockwell pale in comparison, mostly because their characters aren't given nearly as much to do other than simply rush their father out the door so they can fly off to deal with David's "secret."
While "Everybody's Fine" is, on a certain level, the perfect holiday flick, its advertising has taken on a far too festive tone that left many leaving the film's promotional screening saying "It's not what I expected." Closer in tone to "Pieces of April" than your traditional holiday fare, "Everybody's Fine" is really a holiday family light drama with comic touches about one man's determination to bring his family back together for the holidays. Recognizing that all too often our holiday gatherings are filled with facades and lies, images and inaccuracies, it is perhaps the most poignant message of all for "Everybody's Fine" to say "Come as you are."
Indeed, everybody is fine.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic