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6/17/2011

Everybody's Fine reviewed

This dramedy from 2009, starring Robert De Niro, Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale and Drew Barrymore is a remake of the 1990's Italian production Stanno tutti bene with Marcello Mastroianni playing the lead.

In the remake, Matteo Scuro turns into Frank Goode and is embodied by Robert De Niro. I don't have anything against De Niro, I just don't like him very much. He still doesn't have his annoying head-bobbing move under control, but maybe that's some sort of disease, if so, my bad.


De Niro: Cross-country travel in 70s inspired old-man wardrobe














Anyhow, even though the cast lineup is pretty good, I didn't expect much when I read the movie description, thinking that this comedy-drama would possibly turn out to be one of
those classic not-so-funny-comedy resp. not-so-sad-tragedy flicks. And in the beginning, it somewhat met my preconceptions with Mr. De Niro aka Frank, the sluggish widower, oddly preparing the logistics of the yearly get-together with his four children.


Unfortunately each of his children cancels the family date giving somewhat suspicious excuses, so Frank decides to go on a major trip across the country and visit them one by one in spite of his bad health. It quickly turns into a desperate mission to reconnect with his children. I don't want to spoil anything, but as expected, there is a reason they didn't tell Frank the truth why they didn't come to visit...

The overall pacing of this movie is comfortable and while it is not always possible to impartially enjoy De Niro's portrayal of the worried and somewhat peculiar Dad who lost his connection to the real world, I appreciated his effort. A little too wooden and uninspired for my taste, but maybe that's the curse of more than 40 years of Method Acting. Again, what do I know.

Drew Barrymore is sweet and likeable as usual, but not that memorable and I bought her "reveal" the least. Kate Beckinsale did a solid job in portraying the career woman with a secret. It could have easily slipped into a cheesy stereotype, but she walked the fine line.

The real hero of this movie is Sam Rockwell though. He manages to convey a deep feeling of conflict between father and son within the excellently written dialogue sequence. Writer-director Kirk Jones gently raised the issues of career choices, failed ambitions and fatherly approval without too much cliché. For that part I really love this flick, and once again, it's the writing that saved the day and this movie for me.


How about a smoke: rocky relationship between father and son














The cinematography is somehwhat artsy, but discreetly so. It stood out while De Niro was wandering clumsily around Beckinsale's mansion and created magic with him as opposed to the modernistic architecture, being a foreign body in a dysfunctional family.
Most of the times though the stylistics remained largely unnoticed, which is what I always enjoy and appreciate much more than any blunt in-your-face-notice-me statement.

However, I have to add, that, when seeing the description of the original 1990's movie, the choices for the 2009 version make sense in retrospect, but nevertheless, the remake makes a lot of bold changes to the much more theatrical original script, and I don't know if those are all for the better. I guess, it may seem more suitable for a family holiday movie with a dramatic climax, not to have the operatic background or to turn the main character into a telephone wire manufacturer (with the irony of him not being able to talk openly to his kids), but still, I don't know if they all played out in favour of the narration and the overall critical reception of the movie.


    
Stanno Tutti Bene (1990)    Everybody's Fine