'Everybody's' not so fine
Part of me's always glad to see a protagonist named Frank.
If this protagonist is played by Robert DeNiro, well, that's all the better.
The man's a master of his trade, bringing a sense of genuine tangibility to the characters he plays, and though his latest, Everybody's Fine, is hampered by formula and predictability, DeNiro's performance manages to win the day.
Directed by Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine) and falsely marketed as a Christmas comedy, complete with PhotoShopped Christmas tree and shiny, happy people on the poster, Everybody's Fine is anything but.
It's a depressive wolf in sheep's clothing, a gloomy tale of loss and distance presented as innocuous holiday fun, proudly brandishing its oft-forced sentimentality before an unsuspecting audience.
DeNiro plays Frank Goode, a recently retired widower who, despite his career manufacturing coating for telephone wires, has trouble communicating with his four grown children, all of whom live in different parts of the country. His late wife was the communicator in the family, relaying news of their children's success, sometimes filtered, to the proud father.
It's been six months since her passing, and Frank has heard little from any of his children - artist David (Austin Lysy, Hitch), advertising executive Amy (Kate Beckinsale, Underworld), musician Robert (Sam Rockwell, Moon) and dancer Rosie (Drew Barrymore, Music and Lyrics).
After each cancels at the last minute for a family get-together at Frank's, resulting in wounded feelings, several pounds of wasted filet mignon and a remarkably nice grill assembled for naught, Frank takes the initiative and decides to visit them unannounced. He's determined to get everyone around the same table, even if it means extending the invitation personally. Despite his good intentions, this contradicts his doctor's orders, as a life spent working with insulation has left Frank with a debilitating lung condition. Regardless, he sets off on his journey to reestablish a connection.
What he finds is less than desirable. David's nowhere to be found, and each seems to be hiding something from their father, eager to prove that everything's fine, when it's pretty obvious that's not the case - be it Amy's failing marriage, Robert's contentment as a percussionist, rather than conductor, of an orchestra, and Rosie's alternate lifestyle.
They feel their father pushed them so hard toward success that anything less than expected would prove a shattering disappointment. Among these seemingly simple deceptions, though, is a much darker secret involving David's whereabouts, something they'd rather put off telling until the moment is right, the later the better.
As Frank learns about his children's personal trials, he learns something about himself, that despite his best intentions, he's managed to push them away. Without his wife to maintain communication, he's lost his buffer, now more a familiar stranger than a father.
Everybody's Fine, based on the Italian film, Stanno tutti bene, by director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso), delivers a promising concept and heartfelt message, just not very effectively.
Viewers feel for Frank and, like it or not, can probably relate to either him or his children, but certain plot points revealed at the beginning yield expected twists and turns throughout, ultimately following your basic dramedy formula.
For the most part, the cast works well with the material provided, DeNiro especially. His heartwarming interaction with grandson Jack (Lucian Maisel, The Ex) offers some much needed light in an otherwise dark tunnel, and his time spent with the outwardly cheerful Rosie is, at times, pleasantly poignant - until predictability gets in the way.
But DeNiro, grounded firmly in reality, lends plausibility to each scene, regardless of how trite the formula may grow. As such, Everybody's Fine is somewhat of a misnomer - blame it on a lack of communication.
Everybody's Fine, rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.