Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Everybody's Fine


Review by Patrick Hodges

Everyday families composed of everyday people who have everyday problems.  Realistic?  Absolutely.  Does it make for the best movie?  Perhaps not.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that not every film can be all action, explosions and CGI.  And a dose of real-life drama is a good way of balancing out the fantasy.  But just because something is real, just because the characters you are watching could be the folks across the street, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s entertaining.

Robert DeNiro plays Frank, a retiree who finds that he has become extremely disconnected with his now-grown children.  You see, when their mother was alive, she tended to be ones the kids confided in.  With her gone, Frank has had to adopt that role himself, and no one in the family seems comfortable with that.

When all of Frank’s kids cancel their plans to spend the holidays with him – at the last minute – Frank decides to pack up his suitcase and go on a little road trip, visiting his offspring one by one.  Along the way, he discovers that the lives they describe to him over the phone are far rosier than in actuality.  And judging by the way they walk on eggshells when he’s visiting, he can tell that they are keeping something else, something far more ominous, a secret.

The acting is quite good, as you might expect.  DeNiro turns in one of his better performances in recent years, and the roles of his children are also well-done.  Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale do a fine job, completing a picture of a family that is… well, not dysfunctional, but certainly flawed.

And speaking of flaws, the film itself had more than a few.  Although I’m sure most parents, when looking at their fully-grown kids, tend to see them as small children, having it done on the big screen comes across as clichéd.  There were a few light-hearted moments, though considerably few than what the trailer led me to believe.  The dialogue, though well-acted, is also a bit banal in parts.  And when the film’s emotional climax occurs, such as it is, it doesn’t pack much of an emotional wallop, as it is somewhat telegraphed in advance.
I left the theater feeling a little bit unfulfilled, and perhaps a little sad.  If nothing else, the importance of family in one’s life is certainly brought to the forefront, so I’ll give director Kirk Jones props for that.  It’s good to see the whole picture of a typical American family, warts and all.  But I see movies to be entertained, and Everybody’s Fine didn’t really succeed in doing that for me.
2 ½ / 5 stars

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