Not everything's fine in 'Everybody's Fine'
By Bill Goodykoontz
Gannett Chief Film Critic
Here's a simple plea to directors of movies like "Everybody's Fine."
You don't have to be a Mensa member for admission into a movie theater (good thing), and you certainly wouldn't have to be any genius to get at the emotional impact director Kirk Jones is going for in his remake of the 1990 Italian film.
He has Robert De Niro, for goodness sake, acting his tail off in the story of an aging father who comes to realize how out of touch with his children's lives he's become. He's retired from his lifelong job working on the covering for telephone lines. A communications guy, in other words, who can't communicate with his own family.
There. Get the irony? Thought so.
But Jones hammers the point home with such insistence and repetition that it eventually becomes grating.
Dude! We get it already!
Too bad, too, because De Niro's really good as Frank. (No "Taxi Driver") perhaps, but at least no "Meet the Fockers," either.) And there are some scenes that would have been genuinely touching had Jones left well enough alone.
Frank, whose wife died not long ago, invites his children to a dinner, getting everyone around the same table again, as he puts it. But, in a genuinely moving series of events, one by one each kid cancels.
Wounded but determined, Frank decides to pay each a surprise visit at their far-flung locations. Along the way he'll learn how much he doesn't know about their lives, how much they trusted in his late wife instead of him.
The rest of the cast does a nice-enough job. Kate Beckinsale is the harried career woman, Sam Rockwell, a musician; Drew Barrymore is a performer in Las Vegas. Yet, each harbors a stock secret, at least from Frank.
They actually share all the details of their lives with each other, something displayed with all the subtlety of a flying mallet with Jones' repeated shots of the telephone lines Frank proudly observes on his travels as we hear the conversations they have.
But this is clearly De Niro's movie, existing mostly as a vehicle for his estimable talents (and if awards nomination or two falls his way, so much the better). He does all that is asked of him and more. Which is probably the problem. If the film becomes increasingly predictable, the ending is pure sap.
In that regard "Everybody's Fine" is a fitting title. The movie may well be fine. But it could have been a lot better.