Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The legendary Robert De Niro is the character of Frank Goode in this film ‘Everybody’s Fine’. A few months back Frank lost his long time wife and now spends his days taking his lung medication, tending his garden and keeping his house spit shine clean. Frank is fired up because his four grown children are coming for a visit and he has to get everything prepared just right. Then one by one they all call saying they can’t make it, except for the youngest child David who couldn’t call but one of his sisters passed along the message. Whatever. It’s not like the long retired Frank has anything better to do so against his doctor’s vehement protestations… you see in a movie if a doctor doth protest something, then it’s guaranteed that something is going to happen… Frank jumps on a series of trains and busses to visit these detached adult children of his.

First there’s the aforementioned David the artist (Austin Lysy) who lives in New York City. David is nowhere to be found so Frank has to move on to visit his daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsdale) the high flying advertising executive. We know, though Frank doesn’t know, through conversations over the phone wires between the sisters and the remaining brother that David is in all kinds of trouble. The phone wire reference is quite relevant by the way.

In Chicago with Amy things aren’t much better for Frank because she has very little time for him though Frank is clever enough to observe that all is not that great with Amy and her husband, especially considering how poorly Frank’s bratty grandson treats his father. Now it’s off to Denver to check in Robert (Sam Rockwell) the symphony conductor. More pretty scenery of the great American landscape will pass by along with shots of more phone wire and conversations. Robert, as it turns out, isn’t a conductor at all but bangs a kettle drum. Robert never told his old man he was a conductor as this was a conclusion Frank drew on his own or something his late wife told him. Regardless Robert has no time for him either and it is off to Vegas to visit babygirl Amy (Drew Barrymore).

Remember that Doctor’s warning we told you about? Keep that in mind. Frank is happy to see Amy but by this time Frank has seen enough of his children’s deception and he has decided to head on home. Frank, being old and all, apparently isn’t aware that Rite Aid’s all over the nation can fill a prescription no matter where you are. That little piece of info aside Frank just wants to know why these children of his lie to him so freely and so often and why are they so distant from him. All he ever did was work hard, give them everything they ever wanted and steered them towards their life’s dreams. Sometimes though, despite ones best efforts to do right, all a child really needs is hug and someone to listen to them. I guess that’s what they were trying to tell me. Have you ever sat down and tried to listen to a kid. Who’s got time for that?

So my brother calls me and asks me why I watch so many bad movies. I inform him that bad movie inspire me to talk. He already knows this because some of the best times I’ve ever had is watching a bad movie with my brother. Then you have movies such as ‘Everybody’s Fine’ which inspires almost nothing. It’s a competent movie, it’s a movie with Robert De Niro, Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsdale and Drew Barrymore so it’s a well acted movie, but its certainly not a movie that’s transcendent in any kind of way as it delivers exactly what you would expect of a movie of this type and delivers it at the proper times and in proper cadence, offers very few surprises and will do very little to remove you from your movie watching comfort zone. There’s not a heckuva lot that is inspirational there. The only thing remotely interesting in this movie, at least from where I was sitting, was observing the great Robert De Niro at work. He’s inching close to seventy now and while he is still a leading man, his roles tend to veer towards those involving an older man, such as a granddad or the father of adult children. As great as he is, maybe the greatest ever, I don’t think he’s gotten that gentle grandfatherly thing down yet. This might be why Gene Hackman stopped acting because he wasn’t too good at that either. Mr. De Niro as a bitter, sardonic, snide old man in ‘Meet the Parents’? That was genius. Or as a gangster past his prime in ‘Analyze This’? We will casually forget to mention both sequels to those movies, but this is how Robert De Niro best plays old men. The kindly gentle concerned grandfatherly type? Well… you know… he’s still my main man.

I’m really not trying to bag on this movie because one of the reasons I chose to watch this movie is because I had just seen some piece of cinema awfulness that was completely horrible, relating back to this conversation I had with my brother, and I knew that ‘Everybody’s Fine’ would be a competently made, competently acted completely perfunctory film watching experience that would remove the stench of whatever that other movie was I had just seen. I was just kind of hoping it would give me a little more than that… Oh well.

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