2.5 out of 5
Everybody’s Fine is about as calculated as a holiday season tearjerker can get.
However, just because its themes of familial dysfunction and self-discovery, set against the great Americana tradition of the road trip, covers well-worn territory, doesn’t mean its merits are negated.
About Schmidt was essentially predicated upon the same set of circumstances and actually excelled on the strength of its nuanced emotiveness and Jack Nicholson’s transcendent performance. In this instance, Robert De Niro’s languid and respectful delivery of lonely patriarch Frank Goode is similarly wonderful.
It’s frankly even a little refreshing to see De Niro handle Kirk Jones’ script with this much restraint especially since so much of his modern day performances (much like Pacino) have given way to gratuitous scenery chewing and broad overacting.
De Niro plays Frank Goode, a recently widowed pensioner in his 60s who leads a mundane solitary life, meticulously tending to his garden, in upstate New York. His only respite from this is his excitement at having his four children over to his homestead for the holidays.
One by one, his busy children cancel on the poor lonely man, leaving Goode deserted during the holidays. Against his doctor’s advice, Frank decides that if his children won’t come to him, he’ll come to them. So he embarks upon a solo cross-country journey by bus, train and plane to visit his progeny.
He first goes to New York to see wayward artist son, David, to no avail. He then goes off to catch his other children, Amy (Kate Beckinsale), Robert (Sam Rockwell) and Rosie (Drew Barrymore) smack dab in the middle of their not so rosy real lives.
As it turns out, his children all harbour some pretty big secrets and the stories of their perfect existence told over telephone conversations aren’t entirely true.
This leads Frank to reassess his parental self-image as the stern but supportive father, in order to understand just why his children have all been lying to him.
The dominant theme of white lies; well-intentioned deceptions designed to spare parental disappointment, is a heavy one and is suitably addressed. Frank’s interactions with his children are all framed cleverly, with loads of metaphorical space between actors in order to convey distance.
Where this film inevitably begins to disappoint though is when the sheer cheesiness of the contrived pathos comes in. Everybody's Fine was adapted from the 1990 Giuseppe Tornatore film entitled Stanno Tutti Bene, which was actually even more overwrought in saccharine sentimentality than this version.
Jones’ Americanised take is a definite improvement but that’s hardly something to brag about.
Take Everybody’s Fine for what it is, a commercial dramedy dripping in excessive schmaltziness, and everybody will enjoy it just fine.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.