From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Everybody's Fine - B-

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language, 100 minutes

Kinder, gentler DeNiro in "Everybody's Fine"

"Everybody's Fine" is a serviceable family drama that shows the softer side of veteran actor Robert DeNiro, who typically plays hardened criminals, cops or broad comedy. Here he takes it down a notch and plays to his softer, gentler side as a lonely widower who tries to reconnect with his grown kids who are too busy for him now. Overly sentimental and occasionally mawkish, the story is a familiar one that's made better by a talented cast led by DeNiro.

DeNiro is Frank Goode, widower with four grown kids. Realizing his wife was the real emotional connection to the family, he attempts to reconnect with them with an impromptu road trip to visit with each of them. All have seemingly successful careers and happy lives and don't make much time for him. Amy (Kate Beckinsale) runs an advertising agency in Chicago, while his son Robert (Sam Rockwell) is a musician, while Rosie (Drew Barrymore) is a dancer in Las Vegas. They also hide their real problems from him, not to mention the fact that another brother, David, an artist in New York, is in some real trouble, all the while Frank just wants them all together for the holidays.

DeNiro's sensitive, restrained performance is the main reason to see the leisurely, overly familiar "Everybody's Fine," actually a remake of an early '90s Italian film starring Marcello Mastroianni. Directed and written by Kirk Jones ("Nanny McPhee"), the banal, often pensive story attempts to examine family relationships but ends up making it more of a roadtrip-style movie with little time to focus on the relationships as it should. DeNiro makes it all the more plausible, though it's somewhat hard to buy he'd be a patriarch of such a genteel, artistic family (and the script never really explains where all the artistic flair comes from - mother or father).

Of the kids, the most memorable and enjoyable is Barrymore, who shares a few warm scenes with DeNiro and seems more compatible with him than either Beckinsale or Rockwell, who come across as more guarded, that or maybe they're just intimidated by the Oscar-winning actor. Speaking of DeNiro, he's remarkably laid-back and smiles more than he has in some time, displaying a pleasant soft side that's rarely channeled. He makes the bland script and direction better than it really is, and the climax itself lacks a powerful resonance to it, content with resolving things in a pat manner.

DeNiro is by far the best thing about "Everybody's Fine" and he makes it worth seeing, and it's fun seeing him trying to impress his children or take some candid but unnecessary snapshots. It's also worth it to stay to the end for the real treat: a wistful new Paul McCartney tune "(I Want To) Come Home," a sure bet for an Oscar nomination for Best Song. To quote a famous DeNiro line, "You lookin' at me?" The answer is absolutely, and it's a nice change of pace.