There’s a bit in Everybody’s Fine – really near the end, keep with it – so flipping funny that all the loss, death and regret that’s gone before is forgotten.
It involves a rubbish painting of something dull and it’s all you’ll remember as you tumble from the cinema, sides split, ribs tickled. Which really isn’t the point. This is meant to be family-estrangement- leading-to-hugs wallowing.
In it, Robert De Niro’s Frank Goode turns up unannounced at each of his grownup kids’ homes and discovers that Amy (Kate Beckinsale) is lying, Robert (Sam Rockwell) is lying, Rosie (Drew Barrymore) is lying and David (Austin Lysy) is in deep crisis. He’d always let his recently deceased wife deal with the nippers. She’d always told him they were “fine”. They’re not.
Everybody’s Fine – after a light first half where De Niro is funny on a train – focuses on family drama and tensions and things left unsaid. It’s a serious film and director Kirk Jones trickles sadness into every scene, from Frank wandering bereaved in his empty marital home to the looks his offspring give him as he walks away, lied to again. Affecting stuff.
De Niro puts in a decent and subdued performance, but Jones’ Nanny McPhee-carrying CV explains why this isn’t going to be the actor’s About Schmidt moment.
It’s all just too heavyhanded and obvious, especially when the director is cutting away to Frank imagining his grown-up kids when they were young in fake flashback. As devices go, it’s pretty horrific.
Everybody’s Fine feels like a movie made before mobiles. Partly because this really isn’t the era of cross-country surprise visits, but also because it’s inconceivable that Frank – a telecoms worker – would know so little about his offspring.
Still, treat it like a 98-minute set-up for the greatest inadvertently comedic pay-off in memory and you’ll be rewarded.