Netflix Update No. 31: “Everybody’s Fine”

May 6, 2010

ROBERT DE NIRO

We watched the 2009 film “Everybody’s Fine,” starring Robert De Niro and Drew Barrymore, and it was — well — fine. The movie, which also stars Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, is based on an Italian flick, “Sono Tutti Bene.” The American version has earned about half of what it cost.

The premise is that a widower, Frank Goode (De Niro), who lives alone in upstate New York, has his mind set on getting his four children to gather around the same table. A reunion at the family home has been arranged, but the kids cancel on Frank. Frustrated by this outcome, he decides to travel across the country and visit them — unannounced — one by one. His first stop is New York City to see David, who is an artist, but David is not at home, and does not come home. Frank moves on to visit daughter Amy (Beckinsale), who is an advertising executive — married and the mother of one boy. Lying ineffectively because she’s hiding bad news about David and about her marriage, Kate tells Frank that his visit was ill timed, and she hustles him out of town as quickly as possible.

KATE BECKINSALE

Frank moves on to Denver, where, he mistakenly believes, son Robert (Rockwell) conducts a symphony orchestra. Robert also bluffs, says he’s about to leave on a tour, and gets rid of Frank — breaking his promise not to call ahead to sister Rosie (Barrymore), a dancer in Las Vegas with a couple of  secrets of her own. Rose gives Frank a warmer welcome, but this time he is the one who decides to cut the visit short because he lost a needed medication during a mugging incident on his travels.

What Frank’s children are keeping from him concerning David is made clear from early in the movie. What unfolds gradually as Frank sees through the lies his offspring tell him is that they and their mother systematically shielded him from bad news in the family while  he labored to support them by coating telephone lines with a toxic insulation.

DREW BARRYMORE

The children also nurse a vague notion that Frank was a bit too hard on them when they were growing up, but this turns out to have been more complex than they describe.

De Niro is surrounded by talented actors in this film, but the movie also provides him with a low-key tour de force in which an aging man figures out who he has been and who he is going to be for the rest of his life. The children discover that Frank is  sharper than they gave him credit for, and he discovers that, as his children, they have fulfilled any worthwhile ambition he may have had for them.

“Everybody’s Fine” didn’t get a lot of attention, but De Niro did win the Hollywood Film Festival “best actor” award, and Paul McCartney’s original theme, “(I Want to) Come Home,” was nominated for several awards, including a Golden Globe.

Kate Beckinsale and Robert De Niro in a scene from "Everybody's Fine"

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2 Responses to “Netflix Update No. 31: “Everybody’s Fine””

  1. shoreacres Says:

    I’ve been doing some traveling of my own, and have missed reading your blogs.

    Your review makes this film seem deeply appealing.
    The line which strikes me is the description of Frank as an aging man (who) figures out who he has been and who he is going to be for the rest of his life.

    I’m at a point in my own life where I realize the work I am doing now will be the work I do (God willing, in this economy) until I have stopped working. The days of career changes are over. I will live where I live now until I make one more move, or perhaps two, but that will be the end of that. Packing up the house every two or three years for a trek to somewhere new is over.

    Twenty years ago it would have felt stifling, frustrating, perhaps depressing. Today, there’s a certain serenity to it all. In fact, when someone asks “How’re things going?” I often say “Fine. Just fine.” Yep. Everything’s fine.

    • charlespaolino Says:

      Thanks for the comments. I thought I’d be doing the same work until I was physically unable to get to the newsroom, but the Gannett Co. had other ideas and laid me off. Now I’m teaching English at several colleges. It’s practically a full-time job, and I think I will be doing it until I can’t remember where the classrooms are — or until something else comes up — which, Mrs. Micawber, I am hourly expecting!

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