Robert De Niro shines in the family drama, 'Everybody's Fine'
Friday, December 4, 2009
"Everybody's Fine" arrives like a bolt out of some distantly remembered past, when they made movies about recognizable human beings engaged in real, if flawed, relationships, where the stakes are high even if the family van doesn't turn into a giant robot.
This wistful, gently moving family drama stars Robert De Niro as Frank, a retired telephone company employee and widower, who as the movie opens is eagerly preparing for a reunion with his grown children at Thanksgiving. Within the first few minutes of "Everybody's Fine," which is based on Giuseppe Tornatore's 1990 film of the same name, it's clear that it's going to be a heartbreaker: The first clue is the dignified befuddlement with which Frank asks a clueless supermarket clerk to recommend an expensive wine. When Frank's high-achieving kids fail to show, he decides to visit them, embarking on a cross-country journey of often brutal self-discovery.
Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Drew Barrymore deliver fine performances as Frank's busily self-involved children, but "Everybody's Fine" is De Niro's picture through and through. Like he did in the woefully under-seen "What Just Happened," he turns in a subtle, poignant performance as a man who has become an alien in his own family. When he contemplates a wheeled suitcase with faint bemusement, he resembles nothing less than E.T.; he's a walking embodiment of vulnerability and loss. Everybody should see "Everybody's Fine." But one piece of advice: Phone home first.
*** PG-13. At area theaters. Contains thematic elements and brief strong profanity. 95 minutes.