How cute is Robert De Niro in the trailer for Everybody's Fine? It's a rare treat to see the actor actor cuddling babies and lugging his suitcase around the country to visit his lovely but overly busy children. If only the movie were like that. It's the holidays, and I was kind of expecting to get a heartwarming family drama that reinforces how important relationships are, despite distance. That's not the case.
Everybody's Fine is a family drama, but with a series of depressing moments one after the other. De Niro plays patriarch and recent widower Frank Goode, the proud papa to kids played by Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and Sam Rockwell. The grown children are now scattered across the country, successful in their careers but too swamped to make the trip home. On a lonely whim, Frank packs his bag and embarks on a journey to come to each of them.
The sweetness ends there, though. To see why I was disappointed by the movie, just read more.
It's not that the movie is supposed to be a dark lesson in learning how important you aren't to your kids; the children are meant to be loving, but they're busy covering up a dilemma with the fourth brother David, in trouble offscreen. This device is supposed to make us understand the siblings' reasoning for pushing their dad away. It doesn't.
When you're already feeling terrible for Frank for being so brusquely rejected after he's traveled so far (and against doctor's orders), things get even worse. A good deed he attempts goes unrealistically awry, two of his kids make him feel guilty for pushing them to work hard in their youth, and of course, a health scare threatens him. It doesn't stop there, either. When he's hit rock bottom and your sympathies are spent, Frank endures an intensely disturbing dream sequence.
The movie's series of unfortunate events is meant to be absolved when the family is finally reunited. But as a viewer, I felt so beaten down by the time it happens that the resolution isn't uplifting or redeeming at all. I wanted more from this, but the movie is an unnecessarily depressing experience that just leaves you bummed out.
Photos courtesy of Miramax