Everybody’s Fine (2009)

KIRK JONES

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

USA, 2009. , , . Screenplay by Kirk Jones, based on the screenplay by , , . Cinematography by . Produced by , , , . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

takes over for Marcello Mastroianni in this American remake of Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1990 film of the same name, as an elderly widower who goes on a road trip that ends up being as emotional a journey as it is a physical one. While preparing his house to receive a visit from his four children (one less than in Tornatore’s film) for the first time since their mother died, Frank (De Niro) is disappointed when his son calls to say he can’t make it, followed by his two daughters saying that they and their other brother have to skip out as well. His health frail thanks to poor lungs after working for years making the PVC coatings for telephone wires, Frank is advised by his doctor not to travel but decides to go for it anyway, taking a bus to New York City to find his painter son David (), who turns out not to be home.

Continuing to Chicago, De Niro catches up with his advertising executive daughter Amy (), then heads off to Denver to see his musician son Robert (), finally to Las Vegas where his daughter Rosie () is living the glitzy life of being a dancer. His journeys are not without some pretty harrowing incidents, including being stranded at a bus station after failing to update his watch to reflect time zones, catching a lift with a friendly trucker (), as well as a nasty run-in with a young homeless man who doesn’t take well to Frank’s well-meaning but ill-timed condescension.

What’s more, as he continues from one destination to the next, Frank comes to terms with the emotional distance he has with his children that he brought upon himself: hard-working and devoted to his family, he pushed his kids to be as good as they could be and in doing so made them feel that they couldn’t reveal their worries, doubts and failures to him, preferring to share these things with their mother. Seeing them in their own homes makes him realize that they are still hiding the painful truths about their lives from him, which the children say is because they don’t want him to worry but, more likely, are afraid of disappointing him and inspiring his disapproval. When they finally tell their dad the truth about the mysteriously unavailable David, however, Frank’s kids also have to be honest about themselves, but with this also comes catharsis and the possibility of a deeper connection than they ever had before.

This film that has its formula deeply set in place and manipulates your heartstrings with not the least bit of subtle irony, but De Niro’s reserved and controlled performance makes it feel like so much more than just feel-good pandering. The elegant manner in which the characters of the children are presented is where the film finds its most effective grace notes, Frank’s surprising them with his visits causes them Tokyo Story-levels of inconvenience but director Kirk Jones treats their reactions with generous amounts of sympathy. The result is deeply entertaining and often very touching, with Barrymore in particular giving one of her most understated and resonant performances in a film that, while no milestone classic, was unfairly ignored when originally released.

Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Original Song (“(I Want To) Come Home”)

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