Review by Jack Foley
ROBERT De Niro delivers one of his finest performances in some time in Everybody’s Fine, an engaging and frequently poignant family drama from British director Kirk Jones.
A remake of Guiseppe Tornatore’s little seen 1990 Italian weepie Stanno Tutti Benne, the film is a thought-provoking insight into family and communication that will almost certainly trigger some soul-searching of your own.
De Niro plays recently widowed retiree Frank Goode who takes it upon himself to try to re-connect with his children after realising that all the interaction he had with them came via his late wife.
At first poised to host a weekend get-together, Frank is dismayed when each child takes it in turn to cancel, and so sets off on a cross-country trip to surprise and catch up with each of them.
His journey entails stop offs with his daughters – Kate Beckinsale’s apparently happily married businesswoman and Drew Barrymore’s Vegas dancer – as well as both his sons (including Sam Rockwell’s orchestra percussionist).
But with each stop it becomes increasingly clear that his children aren’t being totally honest with him, while the mystery whereabouts of his fourth son gradually becomes a major cause for concern.
Jones’ film isn’t without flaws but is mostly an engaging character study that’s bolstered by nice performances and some touching moments of interplay that are guaranteed to tug at the heart-strings.
De Niro is both frustratingly naive and hopelessly sympathetic as he slowly comes to realise how he has let his bonds slip, while there are nice scenes between him and Barrymore, Rockwell and Melissa Leo (as a truck driver who offers him a lift).
It’s on that all-important human level that the film works best, although sadly Jones can’t resist tossing in the odd plot contrivance that threatens to insult viewer intelligence and underline the obvious.
The way in which De Niro’s Frank continually visualises his kids as their child-like selves becomes repetitive and unnecessary, while a surreal dinner party gathering in the rain – during which the truth behind each child’s life is exposed – feels like a clumsy way of revealing some of which was obvious anyway.
Fortunately, such blips don’t detract too much from what’s otherwise an enjoyable road movie cum relationship drama, especially since De Niro is on such fine form.
It may even make you want to pick up a phone afterwards and dial home…
Running time: 99mins
UK DVD Release: June 28, 2010