“Everybody’s Fine” in the Family (Or Not) for the Holidays

Another movie for holiday viewing, Everybody’s Fine (2009), may have missed a larger audience due to less-than-great critical reviews. It actually fared much better with actual audiences and is worth seeing, in my opinion.

Robert De Niro leads the Everybody’s Fine cast as Frank Goode, a recent widower who’s retired from his factory job where he coated telephone wires; the chemicals involved contributed to the development of a chronic illness. His four adult kids live in various locations across the country. Although he’d been expecting them to visit him at the holiday, each cancels.

Despite his doctor’s advice against traveling, Frank then “…embarks on an impromptu road trip to reconnect with each of his grown children only to discover that their lives are far from picture perfect.” (Metacritic)

Frank’s first stop is New York City, where he expects to find his son the artist. But he’s nowhere to be found, and Frank has to move on. This mystery pervades the subsequent interactions with each of his other kids.

He finds out from his two daughters that one of the main gaps in the relationships between him and them had to do with his specific parental role when they were growing up. Some relevant quotes:

Amy (Kate Beckinsale) to Frank: I tell you the good news and spare you the bad. Isn’t that what mom used to do for you when we were kids?

………………………………………………………………

Rosie (Drew Barrymore): We could just talk to mom.

Frank: Oh, but you couldn’t just talk to me?

Rosie: Well she was a good listener, you were a good talker.

Frank: Well so that’s good, we made a good team.

Various other revelations emerge over the course of this movie, not all of them pleasant, but it’s interesting to see how they occur within the specific family dynamics. A few more reviews:

Adam R. Holz, PluggedIn: “Everybody’s Fine explores how two of Frank’s character traits—perfectionism and denial of difficult realities—have ultimately wrought havoc in his children’s lives. That Frank has caused such damage over the course of their lifetimes isn’t positive, of course. But the fact that he’s trying to face the truth for the first time in his life is.”

Joe NeumaierNew York Daily News: “…works because it has a feel for little things.”

 ***Ann HornadayWashington Post: “Everybody should see Everybody’s Fine. But one piece of advice: Phone home first.”

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