Cinema Review – JDIFF 2010: Everybody’s Fine

Widower Frank (Robert DeNiro) sets off across the US on an impromptu road trip to reunite with his adult children who he has not seen in some time.

Everybody’s Fine is a remake of a 1990 Italian film of the same name. Robert DeNiro leads an all star cast through a film that is a lot darker than the trailers and posters would have us believe. The trailer led me to believe that this was a film along similar lines of Away We Go, the Sam Mendes road movie that came out last year. While Away We Go was not entirely light and fluffy by any means, it hid it’s secrets below the surface, and this was what I expected from the trailer for Everybody’s Fine. What I did not expect was a family torn apart by secrets and betrayal, for each of Frank’s children to be lying to him in a very obvious way, and for one of the children to be unseen through the entire film as he is incarcerated on drugs charges in Mexico. I also did not expect Robert DeNiro to be mugged in a Reno train station. In short, the film is not the one that has been advertised.

That said, this darkness is not a bad thing. Instead of a superficial film that relied on pretty shot of the US landscape from the window of a bus or train, Everybody’s Fine becomes a film about a man trying to get to know the children that he alienated many years ago. When the final confrontation comes, as we know it must, and Frank tells his children that he knows they are lying to him, it does not come in a bus station, apartment or on the street, instead it cleverly happens in a sequence where Frank confronts the children at the stage when he last really knew them – as children.

Robert DeNiro, as always is wonderful in Everybody’s Fine, as a widower who is trying to process the lies he is being told and find a way to bring his family back together. As for the famous faces playing the kids – Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore and Kate Beckinsale – they are fine, but these characters could have been played by anyone, and perhaps the film would have benefitted from unknown actors playing the roles, to allow the audience to connect more with DeNiro’s realisations. Rockwell in particular, especially in view of his performance in last year’s Moon, is criminally underused in the film.

There are some lovely visual moments through the film and some clever tricks to allow us to appreciate the visuals but have what Frank suspects confirmed for us through voice over. Another nice touch is Frank’s use of landlines and film cameras while around him his children are swept up in the digital age. They may be more technologically advanced, but they still can’t outsmart their father.

Overall Everybody’s Fine, is fine, but don’t go in expecting a schmaltzy, saccharine sweet family comedy, because you will be disappointed.

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