There are a variety of interesting thoughts flitting through the background of Everybody’s Fine , but I don’t think many people will get much more from the film than a kind of “mere mention” of these thoughts. It’s the story of a father (Robert De Niro) who is getting a little older, and a bit rundown in terms of his health. It’s also the story about the general family relationship, mainly the relationship with his children (Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale) now that his wife has passed away.
Mom was really the one who kept strong ties to the kids, and Dad was fairly content to stay out of the loop. That worked out, because everyone in the family, including Mom, was on board with that general scheme. When his plan to bring all the kids home for a visit falls through, he decides to travel the country surprising each of them individually. From New York to Las Vegas, by bus or train, because he isn’t supposed to fly, he pops in on the children and their lives, and discovers that a good part of his life is (was) not exactly what he thought.
There is much at play here, and there is a purpose somewhere to an exploration of familial life that goes, more or less, where Everybody’s Fine goes. Few are the times that people respond that things are not fine, and fewer still are the people who would be incredibly happy to have a parent show up unannounced… what with all the things about your life that you haven’t mentioned. There is even a good deal to explore, and even in a very similar set of circumstances, about what it means to simply not understand the real theory of what you’re doing as a parent.
The problem is that, as De Niro rumbles across the country evoking thoughts of About Schmidt, this particular attempt plays out a bit too dull, and without enough exploration. It is the kind of film (in stark contrast to About Schmidt since the comparison is there already) which has a lot it wants to say about life, but rather than saying it, spends its time telling you what it wants to say. That’s a tricky distinction at the best of times, but when you’re dealing with ideas that people rather take for granted (like not talking to your parents about things), and want to up the ante on a dissection of these things, you’re pulling the rug out from under yourself if you are simply going to make statements.
There is a strange line this movie rides such that it might have been less serious, or a bit black, and it would have been a better movie working either direction. As it stands, the final result is a bit like a bad comic who says, “You know how you tell your parents everything’s fine…?” Only there isn’t really a punchline.
A curious misstep by writer/director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine), Everybody’s Fine brings together several big names for no particular purpose, and somehow manages to deliver an experience that is hard to distinguish from staying home.
There is little additional sell to the special features on the disc, which include a Making Of featurette, except it’s the making of Paul McCartney’s “(I Want To) Come Home.” The only thing else you get are deleted and extended scenes, and a fair number of them, but they aren’t integral to a shift in the film really, and they don’t particularly add to the experience for knowing they aren’t there.
Check out a few clips below to get a better feel for things.
Cooking the Turkey
Got a Girlfriend
Are You Screening?