One’s opinion of the new Robert De Niro film Everybody’s Fine will depend largely on one’s opinion of sentimentality. De Niro plays recent widower Frank Goode. His children are grown and living in different cities; he now spends his days alone and meticulously maintaining his lawn. He’s eagerly anticipating his kids all returning home for their first visit since their mother’s funeral when they all mysteriously, one-by-one, back-out. Sensing something is amiss, he sets out to make a surprise visit to each one. However, a lung condition brought on by a lifelong factory job prevents him from flying so he must travel by ground. As he systematically tracks his children down, he finds that one is unaccounted for while the others are living lives that are not quite what he’s been lead to believe. The film is dysfunctional family mystery, of sorts, as Frank attempts to figure out where his son David (Austin Lysy) is and why his kids have been lying to him. [morelink]
For years his wife has served as a buffer between him and his children, revealing only what she feels Frank can handle. With that buffer removed, he quickly realizes how little interaction he has with his children now that they’re grown. Frank’s family consists of Robert (Sam Rockwell), a failed orchestra conductor, Amy (Kate Beckinsale), an advertising agency executive, Rosie (Drew Barrymore), a professional dancer and the aforementioned David, an aspiring artist. De Niro gives the sort of performance we rarely see from him these days…restrained. Gone are the histrionics and scenery-chewing. Instead, we see a man who has worked hard (perhaps too hard) to ensure that his children have a better life than he did; completely oblivious to the fact that he enjoyed a simple life and they might as well.
It’s a strong cast that works diligently to elevate the material given to them. In lesser hands, it would barely rise above the level of your average Hallmark Channel movie. And honestly, for many that will still be the case. But the film has a quiet charm and gentle humor that makes it far more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Writer/Director Kirk Jones does a solid job of creating characters that are likeable in spite of (and sometimes because of) their flaws. It’s these characters that allow the film to overcome its gooey center. Sure, it’s treacly and mawkish at times…but it kind of works.