Directed by Kirk Jones. Starring Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo, Lucian Maisel, James Frain, Katherine Moennig. (2009, PG-13, 95 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 4, 2009
Everybody’s Fine – a movie about the lies grown children tell their parents – is, ironically, one of the most disingenuous movies to come out of Hollywood in a while. The film is an American remake of Guiseppe Tornatore’s Italian original from 1990, but the problems in tone that often beset American remakes of foreign films are merely the beginning of this movie’s faux pas. The characters, whose behaviors are the result of emotionally complex situations, are two-dimensional creations with little backstory and zero depth. The story recounts episode after episode of one man’s disconnect with his grown children, and then wraps it up with a sentimental, patently false, feel-good, holiday ending. Group hug, everyone (and make sure this is the shot used for the movie poster). De Niro plays the family patriarch Frank Goode (that name alone should give you a sense of the film’s generously broad strokes), and one of the few things to be thankful for in this movie is that De Niro abandons the comic mugging that has characterized his last decade of work and actually acts – or, at least, doesn’t overact. He is a widower of eight months when we first encounter him, anxiously preparing for the first homecoming of his four children since their mother’s death. But, one by one, they phone in their regrets. So what does Frank do? He packs a bag and sets off cross-country to pay each of them a surprise visit. He first goes to New York City to pop in on his artist son, David (Austin Lysy), considered by all to be the most troubled family member. David isn’t home, however, and doesn’t return even after Frank spends the night waiting on his front stoop. So on Frank goes to Chicago to visit his daughter Amy (Beckinsale), who lives (I kid you not) in a mostly glass house. Here he learns that his grandson (Maisel) who is supposedly doing fabulously in school is, in actuality, not. Things seems strained with Amy’s husband (Frain) and Amy also seems anxious to get rid of Pops. In Denver, Frank learns that son Robert (Rockwell) isn’t the orchestra conductor that he was led to believe but, rather, the percussionist who bangs the bass drum. And in Las Vegas, the fabrications that daughter Rosie (Barrymore) weaves about her glamorous lifestyle are just a tad too obvious. Frank heads home having learned that all the years he spent being a good provider for his children and always prodding them to excel has had repercussions. They have kept their failures to themselves, and his wife had always buffered him from unhappy truths. Then in less time than it takes to pronounce that old bromide, “everybody’s fine,” the Goode family finds its mojo and gathers together for the film’s final curtain. To that we can only ask: Is all well that ends well?