Robert De Niro stars in Everybody’s Fine, a remake of a 1990 Italian film starring Marcello Mastroianni. You can feel the sentimental influence from the earlier film all over this remake, out today on DVD; it drips from every frame of the movie. It’s not necessarily what one expects from De Niro, the star of Raging Bull, Cape Fear and Heat, but after a lifetime of portrayals of brutal men on film like the ones he’s made with Martin Scorsese, if a master of acting like De Niro wants to make a film that pulls the heartstrings like Everybody’s Fine, he doesn’t have to answer to anyone.
De Niro plays Frank, a retired widower with health problems. As the film opens, his four children renege on a family get together at his house. Instead of wallowing in self pity, Frank decides road trip it, surprising each of his adult children with a visit. First up is David, an artist who lives in New York City. Arriving by train, Frank spends hours outside his son’s apartment only to leave never seeing his son. This will become an important subplot in the film, one that I’m not going to reveal. Frank then travels to see his successful daughter, Amy (Kate Beckinsale). Her reasons for backing out of the visit to her father’s were that her son was ill. As Frank quickly realizes, this was a lie; the first of many lies told to the father throughout the movie.
After an awkward night at Amy’s, Frank decides to leave. He heads to Denver to see his son, Robert (Sam Rockwell), a percussionist in the Denver Orchestra. It turns out that Frank has been fed a lie that Robert is conducting the orchestra when in fact he’s “just” a percussionist. The film plays this notion as if landing a prestigious gig of playing in a major metropolitan orchestra is a job you might pick up a temp agency. That bugged me. Robert and Frank just one afternoon together (in one location) before Frank is off to see his last child, Rosie (Drew Barrymore), a dancer in Vegas who lives in a luxurious apartment that over looks the city. Needless to say, Rosie has bee keeping things from her dad, too.
One by one, the children have been keeping details of their lives from Frank. Most importantly, they are hiding the truth about the whereabouts of David. However, the viewer is quite aware of where David is as there are numerous voiceovers between the children that give us details about David’s life and what has happened to him. I had a major issue with Everybody’s Fine when it came to the storyline involving David and exactly why everyone is keeping things from Frank. They claim that they don’t want him to worry; yet in this particular situation, a father has the right to know what’s going on. Furthermore, when it’s finally revealed to Frank what has happened to his missing son, not one of the siblings displayed the proper emotion the scene calls for.
While the plot regarding David and the “big” secrets kept from Frank by his children were a letdown, Everybody’s Fine is an otherwise enjoyable, with beautiful cinematography, a poignant soundtrack and some outstanding acting by everyone (even the bit roles are well done, including a swell cameo by the great Melissa Leo)/ Moreover, it’s always a pleasure to see De Niro returning to sentimental drama; it suits him well, especially now that he has a lifetime of experiences to draw from. I can only name a handful of films in which he’s attempted sentiment; Falling in Love, Stanley and Iris, and Awakenings are the only ones that come to mind in his storied career. With nuance and some humor, he makes Everybody’s Fine worth seeing, even though the script lets him down.
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