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December 9, 2009 > Movie Review: Everybody's Fine - Thoughtful and enjoyable

Movie Review: Everybody's Fine - Thoughtful and enjoyable

By Joe Samagond

Everybody's Fine (2009), a remake of a 1990 Italian film directed by Giuseppe Tornatore works well in an American context too. Recently widowed, Frank Goode (Robert De Niro) is preparing to receive his four grown children for Thanksgiving, along with their families. However they cancel, one by one, with weak excuses. So he decides to defy doctor's orders and surprise each of them in turn, embarking on a bus and train trip that will take him halfway across the country.

The first stop is New York, where his older son, David, is an artist. Finding no one home, Frank turns west and shows up unannounced at Amy's multimillion-dollar dream house. An advertising executive, Amy (Kate Beckinsale) is obviously doing well for herself though his grandson Jack (Lucian Maisel) scoffs when Frank compliments him on his excellent school reports, and there is an undertow of tension in the house. Worse, they're too busy to offer him hospitality for more than a night. Undeterred, he looks forward to reconnecting with Robert (Sam Rockwell), an orchestra conductor in Denver, and Rosie (Drew Barrymore), a dancer living in Las Vegas.

Frank's presence at each stop is not welcomed with enthusiasm though each of them loves their Dad. He worked so hard during his career that he never got a chance to get to know his children as well as his wife did. As his journey progresses, he starts to see some of what his late wife sheltered him from. Reality dawns as secrets and lies emerge. Each of his grown up children has not really done as well in life as he was led to believe.

It is not a lighthearted comedy but a serious, well-made film. De Niro gives a great performance as Frank, a good man who pushed too hard and then not enough. De Niro unwraps his comic gifts with subtle care, and he brings out the best in the rest of the cast. Rockwell, especially, makes a good impact and Barrymore and Beckinsale shine too.

Writer-director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine) gets a lot of the little things right. There's a nice touch when Jack takes his grandfather's case and automatically opens up the retractable handle the old man didn't know was there. Then there is another scene with the suitcase when Frank obliviously irritates an entire orchestra as he bumps through an empty concert hall to watch his son rehearse. The film is wistful and emotional in the second half as Frank doggedly pursues his dream to "gather everyone around the table."

The movie is worth watching especially as we see Frank transform into a father willing to accept his children for who they are today and not for what he wanted them to achieve.

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 95 minutes

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