If there’s been an actor who has traded away most of his “tough guy” credentials for a softer image in spectacular fashion, it’s been Robert De Niro. The man who embodied the cinematic, tough as nails gangster has refashioned himself into the family patriarch, riffing on his image to the point where it’s nearly replaced it. So it’s interesting to see him in Everybody’s Fine, finding a nice happy medium.
A remake of the Italian film Stanno tutti bene, De Niro stars as Frank. A widower, his four children are spread across the country when he decides to get them all together for a family dinner. When they all cancel on him at the last minute, Frank embarks upon a novel idea: go visit them individually without their knowledge.
Rosie (Drew Barrymore) had a child out of wedlock while pursuing a career as a dancer in Las Vegas, working as a hostess while at the same time questioning her sexuality. Amy (Kate Beckinsale) is separated from her husband, but her career in advertising is successful. Robert (Sam Rockwell) is a musician who had told Frank that he is a conductor when he really is only a percussionist. David, the other sibling who is never seen on camera, is currently in Mexico but out of contact with everyone.
Over the years they’ve crafted images of their lives to him an, as he hits the road by plane and train, Frank gets to see his children’s lives how they really are. And while it doesn’t give enough to its supporting cast, De Niro carries the film with an unexpected performance at an unexpected time.
Considering De Niro has mainly been trading on his name, as opposed to solid performances, since the turn of the century it’s surprising to see De Niro bust out the acting chops again. He’s one of the best actors of the last fifty years for a reason; when he wants to, the man still has a world-class acting fastball when he wants to bring it. Frank is an interesting character for De Niro, allowing him to play the paternal role he’s made for without the tough guy bravado getting in the way. This is the kind of role De Niro is made for; the old timer with enough wisdom to spare but not too old to still be learning about life himself.
The problem is that the rest of Frank’s family isn’t given anything more than bit parts. With a good, veteran cast that De Niro has good chemistry with on hand, the film is more about Frank’s experience then it is about his family. It’s not a bad thing because De Niro shows that he’s still a world class actor; but it short shrifts the story. We don’t have as much of a reason to care about the proceedings because Frank’s children aren’t fleshed out.
It’s a good cast that works together well, as we see the familial relationships that are easily relatable in good form, but at 100 minutes it feels like it’s just starting instead of being a complete story. Everybody’s Fine feels just that: fine. It’s on the threshold of being special but never makes that leap to greatness.
Presented in a Dolby Digital surround with a widescreen presentation, Everybody’s Fine doesn’t push the a/v limits of a system but is a good transfer. Everything that needs to look good does, and it’s mainly a dialogue based film so the audio doesn’t have to be magnificent.
The Making of Paul McCartney’s “(I want to) come home” is a 10 minute piece featuring the enigmatic Beatle discussing how it came to be that he wrote the song that plays at the end. Initially having watched the film, with Aretha Franklin covering “Let it be” as a stand in, McCartney details the process by which he wrote the song.
Deleted & Extended Scenes were deleted for a reason.
After a quick “blink and you missed it” run in theatres, Everybody’s Fine is destined to be a film that people discover during the holidays between reruns of It’s a Wonderful Life and the numerous versions of A Christmas Carol.
Miramax presents Everybody’s Fine. Written and Directed by Kirk Jones based off the original screenplay to Stanno tutti bene by Massimo De Rita, Tonino Guerra and Guiseppe Tomatore. Starring: Robert De Niro, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: February 23, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.