February 19, 2010
Welcome to the end of Robert De Niro’s career, which just so happens to dovetail rather coincidentally with the demise of Miramax, the little studio that became a major player in the 1990s. However, with the departure of its founders, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, it has become a shadow of its former self and is no more. It’s just a shame that it had to go out with a whimper of a film like Everybody’s Fine (2009) instead of a bang with something like Pulp Fiction (1994). To add insult to injury, we’re subjected to another lackluster De Niro film as he tries to show his vulnerable side. What happened to this actor known for his gutsy, powerful performances in films like Taxi Driver (1976) and Heat (1995)? He’s done too many goofy comedies like Meet the Parents (2000) and disappointing dramas like Righteous Kill (2008). Now, we are subjected to seeing the former intense De Niro in a scene where he’s vacuuming?!
Frank Goode (De Niro) is preparing for the arrival of his four grown children. He’s recently widowed and no longer working, spending most of his time doing chores around the house. One by one, they cancel because of their own busy lives. Despite a problem with his lungs, Frank decides to go visit them even though they live all over the country. First, he tries to visit David in New York City. His son is an artist but is not home and, unbeknownst to Frank, appears to be some kind of trouble in Mexico. Next, he visits Amy (Beckinsale) in Chicago. She’s a successful advertising executive with a family of her own. Frank finds out that there is some kind of tension between Amy’s husband and her son Jack. Frank visits his other son Robert (Rockwell) in Denver. He is supposedly the conductor of an orchestra, although, as he finds out, this is not entirely true. Finally, Frank visits Rosie (Barrymore) in Las Vegas. She’s a dancer at one of the casinos and is harbouring a secret of her own.
None of Frank’s children seem to have time for him. They’re leading their own busy lives and are quick to shuffle him off to the next sibling while keeping news of David’s situation from him. Frank’s children keep some of the truth of their lives from him because they don’t want him to worry. Of course, he’s keeping his health problems from them for the same reason. The irony is that Frank used to make the PVC that protects telephone lines and writer-director Kirk Jones belabours this point with several shots of wiring accompanied by oh-so poignant music.
All of the actors do a fine job with the material they have to work with but it does feel like they’re slumming in what is essentially a Lifetime Channel movie. Robert De Niro tries to keep things grounded as best he can but it’s an uphill battle. It is a little disconcerting seeing him as a slightly frail older man in the twilight of his life. The dialogue is actually pretty good for this kind of a film but the music is on the sappy, emotionally manipulative side. Jones manages to avoid melodrama except for the ill-conceived dream sequence where Frank confronts his children as kids. Ultimately, Everybody’s Fine belabours the point of staying in contact with one’s family and the importance of being honest with them.
“The Making of Paul McCartney’s ‘(I Want To) Come Home’” sees the legendary musician explaining how he got the gig and giving him impressions of Everybody’s Fine. He talks about how he composed the song. McCartney speaks briefly about how he identified with De Niro’s character.
Also included are three extended scenes and four deleted scenes. There is more of Frank talking to people that he encounters while en route to visit his children. With the extended scenes it’s easy to see why there trimmed from the final cut.