Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell hash it out in this modestly pleasing drama
“Everybody’s Fine” is this year’s winner in the “We’re All Dysfunctional Together and We Like It That Way” Family-Drama Sweepstakes, a picture with pathos, family secrets and an aging dad, the kind of guy who’s worked hard and lived a good life but now doesn’t have much to do but rattle around his garden and jingle the change in his pants pocket. Robert De Niro stars as Frank Goode, an upstate New York retiree (his former line of work was applying PVC coating to telephone wires) and recent widower. Since the death of his wife, eight months previous, he’s lost touch with his four children, who are scattered across the country. There’s Kate Beckinsale’s Amy, a moneyed Chicago advertising exec; Drew Barrymore’s Rosie, a dancer in Las Vegas; Sam Rockwell’s Robert, a professional musician based in Denver; and the mysterious David, a successful painter living in New York City.
Frank hasn’t been a bad father. It’s simply that his late wife had always been the conduit — the telephone wire, if you will — through which the family kept in touch. When all four of the kids cancel a weekend family get-together he’s planned — the mysterious David sends his regrets by proxy — Frank sets out by train and bus to make a surprise visit to each of them. He packs a few clothes into a suitcase, along with the medication on which his life depends (pay attention here!), zips up his standard-issue Dad-beige golf jacket, and sets off.
This, of course, will be a voyage of discovery for Frank — he’ll learn things about his children he never knew, and they in turn will open up to him. But you knew that already: “Everybody’s Fine” is so forthright about what kind of movie it is, and the feelings it strives to elicit in us, that it’s easy enough to just drift along for the ride, even if certain elements of the story set off those “Hey, wait a minute …” warning bells. The director of “Everybody’s Fine” is Kirk Jones (“Waking Ned Devine,” “Nanny McPhee”), but the movie is a remake of a 1990 Italian film (“Stanno tutti bene”) featuring Marcello Mastroianni. I confess I haven’t seen the original, and I suspect that a few things may have been lost in translation between the two versions. For one thing, one of Frank’s “faults” is that he pushed his children too hard, expected too much of them. At one point Rosie tells him that he put too much pressure on her brother David — that means Frank, a hardworking, blue-collar dad, actually encouraged his son to seek a life of accomplishment and fulfillment in the world of fine art. Sue me, but I just can’t see what’s so bad about that.
And that’s one of the key problems with “Everybody’s Fine”: It wobbles dangerously close to “Look how we turned out, and it’s all your fault!” territory, in which alleged grown-ups, sometimes with kids of their own, scrutinize their parents’ child-rearing methods and find them wanting. I’m not talking about coming to terms with genuine neglect or abuse; I mean complaints of the relatively mild “You insisted on putting peas on my plate even though I hated them” variety. And a little of that goes a long way, in life and in family dramas.
But “Everybody’s Fine” does offer some comforting melodramatic pleasures. For one thing, Drew Barrymore’s in it, and even when her character is accusing poor old pops of not always being as sensitive as he might have been, she comes off as the most well-adjusted of all the siblings — her very demeanor suggests that it’s all OK, no harm has been done. And De Niro’s performance is nicely understated and unforced. Another actor might have greedily milked the story’s pathos quotient (believe me, there are plenty of opportunities). But De Niro hangs back, and the approach works. His graceful but slightly loping carriage, his half-amused, half-weary expression, even the way he zips that golf jacket just up to a certain spot near the belly — it’s as if De Niro had studied the universal language of dads and come up with all the sweet spots. This is the kind of work a great actor does when he’s not preoccupied with giving a great performance. Its very casualness is its big selling point.
More Related Stories
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
- Chekhov's story mirrors Russia's own
- Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina denied parole
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11