Come December, we are prepared to witness the bombardment of holiday movies across the Cineplex landscape. Usually the films are forgettable fluff that attempt to fill some innate need for holiday cheer, but don’t get me wrong; there are some fantastic films that convey the importance of the season. The newest addition to the club, Everybody’s Fine, starring Robert De Niro, lies somewhere in the middle of this chasm of holiday movies, encapsulating relatable issues of our present lives.
Frank Goode (De Niro) is an average blue-collar retiree who has embraced the American dream of his generation. His home is modest with a well-kept garden and spotless interior thanks to Frank’s diligence. Family photos line the shelves of his home and Frank takes time to bask in the sun of his accomplished life seen in the gallery of snapshots. Yet, he is alone and a recent widower, emphasizing the serene home life as a disguise for unknown issues. After his four children cancel on him for a family get together, he decides that he’ll just make a surprise visit in each of their respective cities. On each visit though, Frank gets an awkward welcome and a hint that each child is not divulging the entire truth. Let’s just say for this film’s purpose, he is trying to keep the communications lines open with his family.
De Niro does not show any signs of his idiosyncrasies in Everybody’s Fine. He really transforms himself into this respective, hard working and aging father who is trying to understand where his children are in their lives and how he fits in. His character is both intuitive and lost in a life where he’s discovering that he may have been shielded from all the unfortunate family news. The wife, the real matriarch of the household, was the glue of the family and the filter for De Niro’s character. There is not much back-story explained, but it’s obvious that the father worked long hours as a telephone wire assemblyman for his children’s needs and in turn made the mother the emotional rudder.
The road story is predictable and keeps a common thread with shots of telephone wires, focusing on both Frank’s profession and the broken lines of communication with his children. Each scene with the children is interesting, emotional, and quite realistic. It’s a fine supporting cast with Drew Barrymore as the father favorite, Sam Rockwell as the independent musician, and Kate Beckinsale as the successful advertising agent. Each vignette is well played, scraping off layers of family relationships with Rockwell’s performance shining through in his supporting role.
Although the film is predictable, it’s one of the better holiday movies to come out in recent memory. Everybody’s Fine displays the real interconnectedness of family, the good and the bad that comes with it. It also relates to the tribulations of the past year, highlighting what is most important and how there is always a chance to turn it all around. A great message in this, a new year.