So it turns out the title is ironic, in case you were wondering. Whew. Everyone knows that in Hollywood, resentment, regret and anguish simmer beneath the surface of almost every seemingly perfect family. The smiles and warm handshakes invariably conceal sibling rivalry and torment that has festered for years. What self-respecting family could say differently?
Anchored by a warm and engaging lead performance from Robert De Niro as a lonely widower who hopes to reconnect his fractured family, Everybody’s Fine hits every emotional note we expect as it proves that the people we hold most dear are often the ones we lie to the most.
Frank Goode (Robert De Niro) has spent his life manufacturing the coating on millions of miles of telephone wires, which now separate him from his four children. Alone in a house he once shared with his wife, Frank merrily organises a get together, only for all four offspring to cancel at the last minute. Unperturbed, Frank decides to pay surprises visits to his two sons and two daughters, despite a harsh warning from his doctor: “Fibrosis of the lungs requires you to take things easy. You know that.” First, he heads to New York to visit talented artist David (Austin Lysy) but the young man isn’t home. Next, it’s a short journey to Chicago to advertising agency executive Amy (Kate Beckinsale), her husband Jeff (Damian Young) and son Jack (Lucian Maisel), who can’t wait to get rid of the old man. Denver is the next stop on Frank’s odyssey to surprise classical musician Robert (Sam Rockwell), who isn’t quite the oschestral conductor he told his parents he was. In fact he is content with his role in the percussion section. “Are you happy?” asks Frank.”I get paid to bang a big, loud drum all day. Of course I’m happy” smiles Robert. Then it’s off to Las Vegas for a rendezvous with dancer Rosie (Drew Barrymore), who is the first of the brood to seem genuinely glad to see Frank. Like her siblings, the talented dancer is keeping secrets from her father, not least the actual whereabouts of brother David.
Cheap and Cheerful
Everybody’s Fine is an unusual choice for De Niro, who slouches into his role as a man dependent on medication that we are sure will run out well before the final leg of his trek. His warmth and quiet charm are in stark contrast to the spikiness of Beckinsale and Rockwell, while Barrymore smiles her way through a similarly undernourished supporting role. As expected, there are tears and reconciliation to heal old wounds in the nick of time. Frank’s snapshots from his travels appear over the end credits along with Polaroids of the children, leaving us with a warm if cheap, sentimental glow.