Miramax // 2009 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // February 23rd, 2010
Frank's travelling light but carrying excess baggage
I only found out that Everybody's Fine was a remake after viewing the film. How ignorant of me. Based on a highly regarded Italian movie called Stanno tutti bene, this one died a quick death at the box office and received lukewarm reviews. On release back in December 2009, the film was marketed as a Christmas themed effort (even though the festive season is barely name checked) and as a return to more dramatic pastures for the great Robert De Niro. A lowly five million dollar opening weekend pretty much confirmed that such advertising tactics weren't washing with the general public. Now only two and a half months later, the film is out on DVD to be reassessed and given a second chance. I for one hope that Everybody's Fine finds more love on the home entertainment market because it's a perfectly good movie with a likable De Niro performance.
Frank Goode (Robert De Niro, Heat) has been a widower for five months and is greatly looking forward to a visit from his four children. Disappointingly, all cancel the visit at the last minute, offering suspicious reasons for their inability to attend. As a result, Frank decides to pack up and go see them himself, starting with artist David (Austin Lysy, Hitch). When David isn't in, Frank heads elsewhere, visiting successful mum Amy (Kate Beckinsale, Underworld), musician Robert (Sam Rockwell, Moon), and Las Vegas dancer Amy (Drew Barrymore, He's Just Not That Into You). However, as he sees all his offspring in the flesh, he begins to suspect that everything might not be fine, and that his perfect family image could be built on a foundation of white lies.
With a cast as good as that found in Everybody's Fine, it would only be right to assume the acting is a strong point. Yet surprisingly the supporting artists get very little individual screen time, leaving De Niro to carry the picture. He does a great job and hands in a loving and engaging performance with several of his more crazed acting ticks dialed way down. Saying that Robert De Niro is a good actor is like saying McDonald's is a modestly successful little restaurant chain; a major understatement. It shouldn't come as a surprise that he handles the leading role well and digs up subtle little moments of brilliance to form Frank into a three-dimensional screen entity. Throughout the entire picture he's charming without coming over as unrealistically saccharine, and anxious enough to pass as a man well into his twilight years. Basically, Frank is a pleasant character whose company is easy to keep, a pivotal victory given the fact De Niro is almost never off the screen.
The loving yet slight sense of disconnect that surrounds the family in Everybody's Fine is well played by director Kirk Jones. The shared scenes with De Niro and his various children are tightly constructed and echo the sense of loving unease these full grown adults feel for their father. Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, and Drew Barrymore are all quite good; certainly they make the most of their shared scenes with De Niro. All three probably signed on just to work with the screen legend, but their acting isn't slack; they do the best with what they've got and ultimately come up with several reasonably convincing characters and relationships. Make no mistake, this is De Niro's film, but all three thespians contribute nicely in their own little way. Jones does well not to slather on the clichés and syrupy subplots too hard. Everybody's Fine is softly directed without much glitz or glam, but that allows the story and character interaction to dominate. Audiences should find the participants easy to relate with, and the story has a natural feel that keeps things interesting and helps avoid emotional manipulation or other common flaws that often inflict the genre. It's an enjoyable and watchable journey that draws the viewer in gently and gives an organic look at an unknowingly dysfunctional family.
The ending is touching but given the previous 85 minutes not unexpected. It's fairly easy to see where Everybody's Fine is headed from the first frame; most of the plot contortions in the finale are broadcast early and often. Still things conclude on a digestible note, avoiding mawkish sentiment but definitely holding firm to the loving nature Frank exhibits from the start. Everybody's Fine is a lovely production, well directed by a filmmaker who understands that drama and melodrama are two very different things. Is it a prominent title in De Niro's filmography? No. Is it worth watching? Yes.
The DVD transfer is okay at best, but given the visual restraint exhibited by director Jones that's not a huge loss. In the same vein the audio is fine, fitting the film's needs but unlikely to blow a hole in your speakers. A strong set of deleted scenes is interesting only in that they showcase that the movie was well edited; virtually nothing in this excised selection would have improved the movie had it been left in. A featurette following the making of Paul McCartney's song "Come Home" is also included. It might entice McCartney enthusiasts but didn't do much for me. I'd rather have had a short making of looking at the film rather than examining the creation of just one song featured in it. Not really an inspiring DVD release to be honest.
Everybody's Fine feels like a minor work and in reality that's what it is. Still it's easy to enjoy and features some nice dramatics and a rich turn from De Niro. Sometimes people just want to watch a small scale, warm hearted story, and that's exactly what this provides. I'm more than happy to recommend it.
The Court finds this film to be fine.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes