Everybody's Fine In Review
A Real Tearjerker
Are you a fan of Robert De Niro’s work? Do you enjoy movies that are considered “tearjerkers”? Would you figuratively walk through fire for your siblings? If so, Everybody’s Fine might just be the movie for you.
Based on the Giuseppe Tornatore film Stanno Tutti Bene, Everybody’s Fine is a reminder that family bonds are hard to break. Eight months and a day ago, Frank Goode (Robert De Niro) was a happy man. He had a wife who adored him and four children who, to the best of his knowledge, led perfect lives. Yet, that was eight months ago. Nowadays, Frank is just a lonely widower longing to reconnect with his children. When the movie opens, Frank is preparing his home for a visit from his children. However, after they all cancel for obviously bogus reasons, he decides to surprise them with a visit. He first goes to New York City to visit his artist son, David (Austin Lysy) who isn’t at home. Deciding he’ll return for a visit later, Frank journeys on to daughter Amy’s (Kate Beckinsale) house. Realizing that his visit is adding tension to her already shaky marriage and feeling that he is encroaching on her advertising job, he excuses himself and proceeds to visit his musician son, Robert (Sam Rockwell). During the visit, father and son engage in a verbal tug-of-war that results in Frank realizing that he may have had too high expectations for his children. His final stop is Las Vegas to see his showgirl daughter, Rosie (Drew Barrymore). While there, he helps baby sit a child that Rosie claims to be her neighbor’s, but Frank secretly believes otherwise. Will Frank’s children ever be honest with him about their lives? Can Frank make it back home in one piece? Most importantly, where is David? You must see the movie and learn these answers for yourself.
Directed and written by Kirk Jones (Waking Ned), Everybody’s Fine is an unbelievably depressing movie. Unfairly labeled by critics as “too sentimental,” it pulls at your heart and drains your tear ducts. While I wouldn’t say that Robert De Niro or the film itself deserves awards, I would say that it is a well-written and fabulously acted movie. De Niro is perfect as an aging widower with a pair of defective lungs and a quartet of disappointing offspring. Though he is known for his infamous “tough guy” roles, in the role of Frank he is gentle and heartbreaking. As his three children, Barrymore, Beckinsale and Rockwell are all multi-dimensional characters that you can root for, but it’s Rockwell that truly shines. Unfortunately, no one, but De Niro gets much screen time and while he is a strong enough actor to carry the film it would’ve made for a more complete story if the children’s story lines had been given more room to grow. Nevertheless, it is a good movie that deserves as much success as it can get.
Though Everybody’s Fine has the ability to speak to all audiences, I believe it speaks most clearly to people with siblings. While I’m sure others will argue that it’s about Frank’s journey so naturally it’s for parents, as someone who has yet to become a parent and is firmly planted in the “sibling” category, I am unable, for the time being, to agree. In the movie, we meet the Goode children, four lost souls who would sooner lead double lives than let their precious father down. Though their mother knew otherwise, their father is under the belief that each is living the life they always dreamt of and lead it without a care in the world. Despite it becoming obvious to each that “the jig is up” (Frank makes a point of mentioning that Amy’s husband is not present. Frank hounds Robert about playing the drums and not using his degree. Frank makes thinly veiled comments about the baby to Rosie.), they still can’t let go of their lie and keep on lying. No one wants to let down their proud parent.
In true sibling form, they cover for the absent David even to the point where it makes Frank more suspicious of their own lies. Throughout the movie we hear snippets of dialogue about where David is. Though it is clear that their father will find out eventually and really should know what’s going on already, for the sake of perfection and the love of their family, they keep things a secret. It is a burden that every sibling must bear to varying degrees. We are raised from day one to love and protect each other with all that we have. Even when we disagree with each other and our individual actions, that bond cannot be broken. Personally, were I raised an only child and not instead the youngest of three, I know this movie wouldn’t have affected me as much as it has.
In one way or another, we have all been these people. We strive to be the best even when our version of the best doesn’t match anyone else's. We love who we love with everything in us even when it’s a risk to our safety and sanity. We awake each day with the hope that today will be a little better than the one before even when we know that circumstances have yet to change. There is nothing unique about the Goode Family or their story, but they will remain undeniably with you beyond the credits. I cautiously recommend Everybody’s Fine not because it isn’t worth seeing, but because it may be too much for you to handle. If you decide to see this movie, I recommend you go with someone you trust and bring a package of tissues. You have been warned.
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