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3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Everybody's Fine
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by William Goss

"Hitting The Road For A Guilt Trip"
3 stars

Well, it’s happened. Robert De Niro went and got old on us.

Mind you, he’s aging pretty gracefully. As Frank Goode, a sixty-something widower who ventures out to see all of his kids after they simultaneously bail on a planned visit, he comes across as a man whose kind-but-firm manner has served him and his family well over the years. This is a man who coated a lot of telephone wire to give his children a chance, a man who pushed them to excel, a man whose wife used to do all the talking and can no longer connect the dots for him. And since he’s a man only more stubborn than he is sick (surprise, surprise), now’s as good a time as any for him to reach out to a family that only seems to be shrinking away.

It’s about as understated a role as De Niro has had in years, and it’s enough to make him endearing throughout, even at those times when writer-director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine) asks us to believe that a grown man like Frank wouldn’t know how to work with chopsticks or handle luggage properly. When Melissa Leo drops in with an all-too-brief appearance as a helpful truck driver, she commiserates with him about these changing times, and together, they make a well-worn lament for the modern age sound a little less preachy and a little more resigned.

Even though his kids won’t talk to him, they are talking to each other (Jones chronically plays these conversations out over shots of continuing wire, a nice if obvious touch), and once he shows up at their respective doorsteps, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore and Sam Rockwell all do their best to look like they’re doing their best to keep up appearances for Dad and keep a Big Secret from him. They’re all happy to see him, they’re all grateful for his support, though some wonder if he didn’t ask too much out of them growing up and all of them worry if this much travel is good for him. The sooner he’s on the road, though, the sooner he’s back home, and the sooner he’ll stop asking questions about their estranged brother…

Alas, the Big Secret does inevitably catch up with the characters, and Jones relies on an unfortunate amount of magic realism in the third act to communicate much regret and shame. It’s a heavy-handed maneuver that brings down an otherwise sure-handed movie full of equally solid performances into the territory of shameless tear-jerking and moderate awards pandering. The film then tries to bring things back up for a happy ending, but by that point, it seems like an effort to detour the message of the movie from being an endorsement of blissful ignorance among family to the cover-all acceptance of flaws and betrayals big and small.

The ending also helps barely justify a marketing campaign whose poster flaunts Christmas trees and smiles and whose trailer plays up all the broadest bits of humor from the film’s first half. 'Everybody’s Fine' isn’t as feel-good as advertised, which would be fine if it didn't try so hard to make you feel bad instead.

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originally posted: 12/05/09 08:40:03
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User Comments

8/12/13 Charles Tatum Surprisingly touching, nice performances by all 4 stars
1/04/10 Carol Baker Even DiNiro couldn't save this boring movie and he's the only thing in this movie 2 stars
12/12/09 Phillip W. Weiss Robert DeNiro's strongest performance in years. 4 stars
12/11/09 Ming This film just too boring for me 2 stars
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  04-Dec-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Feb-2010


  DVD: 23-Feb-2010

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