Stories of family gatherings — and their accompanying emotional upheavals — have become a staple of the holiday season. They are always full of sentimentality, which simetimes becomes oppressive.
Everybody's Fine, a remake of Giuseppe Tornatore's Stanno Tutti Bene (1990), is raised by the nuanced performance of Robert De Niro as Frank, a stoic widower and father of four grown children.
But film itself does not reveal any new truths about people's relationships. I's just a sad story of one family, which somehow turned unhappy.
The story opens with Frank planning a family dinner expecting all his children to attend. Instead, he is met with cancellations and excuses. He takes it in stride, realizing his conduit to his children was his deceased wife. Like many fathers of his generation, Frank was focused on providing for his family. While he didn't connect emotionally, he was intent on their success. Ironically, his job was all about connections — he installed coating on telephone wires for a living.
He embarks on a road trip to visit his kids and, en route, chats up fellow bus passengers garrulously. Meant to be funny, it comes off contrived.
Frank's first stop is the New York home of his artist son, who is not home. Frank moves on to Chicago and his advertising executive daughter, Amy (Kate Beckinsale). There's an awkwardness in the air. Then he's off to Denver to visit his son Robert (Sam Rockwell), anxious to see him in his job as a symphony conductor. Disappointments ensue. His final stop is Las Vegas, where his bubbly daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore), a dancer, is eager to impress him. Reality slowly dawns on Frank as secrets, lies and painful realities emerge.
Though De Niro gives a strong performance as a loving, if not always perceptive, dad, the film takes a treacly turn, grows truly sad and never fully recovers.
The New York Times has contributed to the review.