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Everybody’s Fine Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

Sometimes movies seem better than they are because they exceed your expectations. The inverse is also true; I’ve given films worse grades than they deserve because they disappointed me (“Juno” is a good example of this). “Everybody’s Fine” is an example of the former. I had heard OK things about the film, but from everything I’ve seen about it, I thought I knew exactly where it was going. I didn’t. The third act seriously surprised me. Combine the surprisingly powerful third act with a very solid performance from Robert DeNiro, and you get quite a good little film.

The film’s plot revolves around a lonely widower, Frank (DeNiro), who has made it his mission to reconnect with his children. When they are all unable to attend a planned reunion on Frank’s house, he arranges to take his show on the road. Despite his health concerns, he decides to travel the country to visit his four children, even if it kills him. The first stop is in New York to visit David, but he’s not around (we later find out he’s having drug problems and went to Mexico). The following three stops – Chicago to see advertising executive Amy (Kate Beckinsale), Denver to see musician Robert (Sam Rockwell), and Las Vegas to see Rosie (Drew Barrymore) – reveal the long-standing problems between the father and his children. He pushed them a lot when they were younger, so as adults, they feel the need to impress him.

Road movies often feel stale, but this one is pretty refreshing. I attribute that to the emotions that follow Frank on his trip. We feel for him (thanks largely in part to DeNiro’s performance), and in the third act, when we learn some surprising things about this family. It’s definitely possible you’ll shed a tear or two.

As I’ve said, this is DeNiro’s show. He plays an ordinary man, not something you’d expect from the man who brought us Travis Bickle and Jake LaMotta. Frank isn’t loud or in-your-face like one would expect. His best moments are the quieter ones during which we see his loneliness and regret. Nobody else in the film really stands out, but no one gives a bad performance either.

The only thing holding “Everybody’s Fine” back from being a 3.5 star film is the feeling we’ve seen all this before. As I said, it does surprise in parts, but it’s still not the most original plot we’ve seen in a while. Still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, and I was definitely somewhat moved by it. Perhaps it was because I didn’t expect much out of it, but “Everybody’s Fine” will definitely go down as one of 2009’s pleasant little surprises.

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