A fine “Everybody’s Fine” not for everybody
Don’t go to see “Everybody’s Fine” expecting to witness the lighthearted holiday film that the previews portend. Indeed, the commercials feature all of the film’s comic moments backed by a bouncy Stevie Wonder soundtrack. But this gentle, sentimental film, featuring a nicely restrained turn by Robert DeNiro, is more somber than sweet and while certainly worthwhile for those in the mood, is not exactly a seasonal spirit-lifter.
Your stage in life will likely determine your ability to see the truth and subtle power of a film about an aging parent’s feeling of disconnection with his family.
Those with adult kids will relate to blue-collar widower Frank (DeNiro), who invites his four 30-something kids to his home for a family reunion where he’s prepared steaks and bought the best grocery store wine, and proceeds to get stood up.
Determined to get closer to them, and to find out why they told their late mom everything and him nothing, Frank sets out on a road trip to “pop in” on his kids, who are spread out in New York, Chicago, Denver, and Las Vegas.
Three of the children, credibly and interestingly portrayed by Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Drew Barrymore have issues they’ve concealed from the old man, including one secret involving the fourth sibling that provides the film’s emotional peak-though it hardly comes as a surprise.
If you’ve never had an aging father who saw himself as primarily the dedicated breadwinner and disciplinarian at the expense of emotional intimacy, then you might find some of Frank’s behaviors contrived, or worse, false. But in reality almost everything Frank does and says, especially through DeNiro’s quietly nuanced performance, rings true. From the way he ignores his doctor’s advice, to visiting his kids unannounced, to how he doesn’t know his suitcase has a hidden handle-these are all the real world idiosyncrasies of a stubborn Sicilian-born retiree.
“Everybody’s Fine” is not for everybody. The film takes a while to reveal something beyond the preview, and its storytelling is linear and rarely evokes any big swings in emotion. If certain dream sequences and scenes where Frank imagines his grown-up kids as their much younger versions seem a little trite, that doesn’t make them any less authentic.
“Everybody’s Fine” has something to say about the struggle of a parent in the twilight of his life trying to make up for lost time-and the way children try to protect their parents from truths they think will only disappoint them.
Rated PG-13 for some strong language.