With Robert DeNiro, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell. PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language. 95 minutes.
If Hollywood really wanted to give us a holiday present they would declare a moratorium on dysfunctional family movies. For every halfway decent one there’s many more that are dreadful. Which brings us to EVERYBODY’S FINE.
Younger viewers may not recall that there was once a time where a new movie with Robert DeNiro was a cause for celebration rather than dread. Here he plays Frank Goode (extra points for deconstructing his ironic name) a widower and retiree who has only perfunctory relationships with his four adult children. So, against doctor’s orders, he goes on a road trip to surprise each of them with a visit. Those noticing that DeNiro is billed with only three co-stars are already ahead of the game.
It turns out that Mom was the one the kids confided in while Frank, always pushing them to excel, was told only good news and white lies. As he travels from sibling to sibling, they’re on the phone with each other about the missing son – an artist – who has been arrested in Mexico. They conspire to keep this a secret from him. By film’s end all the secrets are out and Frank gets to deliver the moral of the story… at length. It’s been a long, slogging journey to get there.
Much of the blame goes to the filmmakers who make Frank a boring old man who tries to make up for the emptiness of his life by talking to total strangers about his life and family. A scene where he’s in a coffee shop with other such people should have suggested how pathetic he is, but he just goes on. What’s most annoying is how clueless he is, as in a scene where he spots a guy sleeping in at the terminal and offers him money. He does this by opening his wallet so the guy can see how much he’s carrying. Guess what happens next.
By the time he’s tracking down a painting by his artist son – a painting that, of course, is a perfect representation of Frank’s life – you may already be clawing your eyes out. The film wants our tears and respect, but mostly deserves our derision. The characters are so cold and lifeless you may think you’ve walked into a zombie film. Even Drew Barrymore – as a Las Vegas showgirl no less – is bland and uninteresting. Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell seem like cardboard cut-outs.
As for DeNiro, it’s hard to say if he’s lost interest in acting or simply in the parts that are available to him as he’s gotten older. Jack Nicholson played a part similar to this in “About Schmidt” and did wonders with it. It’s been a long time since DeNiro dazzled us in “Taxi Driver,” “The Godfather, Part II” and “Raging Bull.” Where contemporaries like Al Pacino and Meryl Streep continue to do interesting work, DeNiro seems to be there just for the paycheck.
The only thing that can be said about “Everybody’s Fine” is that they’re not, at least not in this movie.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.