Theatrical Review: EVERYBODY’S FINE

James Wallace

by:
December 7th, 2009

Everybodys Fine

Rating: 7.5/10

Writer/director: Kirk Jones
Cast: Robert DeNiro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell
Studio: Miramax

A remake of Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore's (CINEMA PARADISO) 1990 film of the same name, EVERYBODY'S FINE tells the story of Frank Goode (Robert DeNiro), a recent widower out of touch with his four children (Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Austin Lysy). And so he decides to do what any elderly parent with a heart condition would...set out on a trek by way of plane, train, and automobile across America to drop in and surprise his kids one by one. After all, if they aren't going to come see him, why not take the initiative and go see them, right? Wrong.

Despite the title and cheery poster seen above, everybody is in fact not fine, which largely explains the canceled holiday visits, less frequent phone calls, and distant feelings from the children to their father. Everybody is not fine indeed and things are not as they seem with the lives they live, as Mr. Goode soon finds out.

EVERYBODY'S FINE comes in the tradition of films like THE FAMILY STONE, in which a studio attempts to market their movie as a happy holiday movie filled with family fun and wholesomeness. Exhibit A: The poster above. Exhibit B: The trailer below. But to be honest, EVERYBODY'S FINE is neither of these things. Instead, what the audience gets when they unwrap this unassuming present is a beautiful film about doing the best you can as a parent when your kids are young and picking up the pieces of your mistakes as they get older and make their own. Exhibit C: 4 children. Each with a secret. A drug habit, a baby, a divorce, and an unwanted career. Do not misunderstand, it still reaches the intended goal of displaying the importance of family. Just not in the conventional feel-good film format. Think more ABOUT SCHMIDT and less IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

As the elder Goode, DeNiro plays the man with a somber yet warm and loving tone not seen very often, if ever, in the iconic actor's 40 or so years of acting. As the children, Barrymore, Beckinsale, and Rockwell exude a genuine quality in their characters that would otherwise thought to be overshadowed by the fact that they're Barrymore, Beckinsale, and Rockwell.

As a writer/director, Jones (WAKING NED) has the hard task of crafting an Americanized film out of an Italian one from a beloved Italian director. And who knows the troubles of life better than the Italians or the man who made melancholy films, like the original EVERYBODY'S FINE and A PURE FORMALITY? Jones presents a lovely adaptation, taking bold chances ,such as the flashback sequence in which Goode sits a picnic table with the child-forms of his offspring and asks them about all the lies and secrets they've been hiding from him in their adult years. The film is also a beautiful portrait of the U.S., capturing Goode's journey through a cinematography that feels as if it were modern photography of Americana.

In the end, EVERYBODY'S FINE is that dose of reality needed during the idealistic, Norman Rockwell-esque time of year for film known as the holiday season. That time when some flock to the theaters to watch families in order to escape their own. But what this film work's to say is that it is "Hey, it's the only one you've got and that is something to be thankful for." And when you look at it that way, everything seems a little finer.

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