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.
Selected Reviews of Everybody’s Fine
Roger Ebert: “All that could redeem this thoroughly foreseeable unfolding would be colorful characters and good acting. ‘Everybody’s Fine’ comes close, but not close enough.”
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: “This is a sweet-natured film on the saccharine borderline, but with interesting moments; it does not deserve the cold critical response it has so far been given in the US, and the 66-year-old De Niro gives what, for my money, is his first decent, watchable performance in quite a while.”
Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter: “‘Everybody’s Fine’ glides along a surface of complete inauthenticity. Characters have no depth and all emotions get ladled on via a syrupy score and Robert De Niro’s strenuous acting. It’s a no-go almost from the start.”