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Everybody's Fine DVD Review

Everybody's Fine (2009) movie poster Everybody's Fine

Theatrical Release: December 4, 2009 / Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Writer/Director: Kirk Jones / Original Writers: Massimo De Rita, Tonino Guerra, Giuseppe Tornatore

Cast: Robert De Niro (Frank Goode), Drew Barrymore (Rosie Goode), Kate Beckinsale (Amy), Sam Rockwell (Robert Goode), Melissa Leo (Colleen), Damian Young (Jeff), Lucian Maisel (Jack), James Frain (Tom), Katherine Moennig (Jilly), Brendan Sexton III (Mugger), James Murtaugh (Dr. Ed), Kene Holliday (Butcher), Lily Sheen (Young Amy), Chandler Frantz (Young David), Mackenzie Milone (Young Rosie), Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (Young Robert), Austin Lysy (David Goode)

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After watching the trailer for Everybody's Fine, I realized something: Robert De Niro is officially old. It saddened me to think that he could be starting the final lap of his career. Youths of today could conceivably know De Niro, 66, only from his role as CIA operative turned suspicious father-in-law in his all-time top-grossing films Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers. To the rest of us, De Niro is one of the most outstanding actors to ever grace the screen,
with a legacy that includes unforgettable work in The Godfather, Part II, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Midnight Run (you may not know the last one, but trust me, the buddy comedy deserves that mention).

Now, why did I feel that De Niro had gained entrance into the geriatric community? It wasn't because he was suddenly showing his age. It wasn't because he was playing someone a generation ahead of not quite young adults. (He had obviously done the same thing in the Meet comedies.) It was because Everybody's Fine appeared to be aiming strictly at the old-timers demographic. For years, De Niro had avoided such a project, playing characters that were still investigating homicides and robbing banks without giving us much thought about retirement prospects. With Everybody's Fine, he seemed to be embracing old age with a feel-good tearjerker that would do most of its business before sunset.

That design must have troubled others too because the movie performed surprisingly terribly at the box office, putting up the year's second lowest wide-release opening (only Bandslam's was more futile) en route to a disappointing $9.2 million domestic gross. Worse than simply being old, it looked like De Niro was irrelevant too.

A remake of the 1990 Italian drama Stanno tutti bene, Everybody's Fine was supposed to be a comeback film for De Niro. Pre-release buzz and a December debut pointed to the actor picking up another Oscar nomination, something he hasn't done since 1991's Cape Fear. Instead, the film may have simply been the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back; a month after Fine's miniscule run stopped being tracked, the Walt Disney Company announced the closing of Miramax Films. The much-awarded independent film division that had remained fairly respectable after the Weinstein brothers' messy 2005 exit will no longer exist at Disney, who has officially put the Miramax name and 700-title library on the shopping block.

An Illinois train station board displays some of the stops Frank Goode (Robert De Niro) won't be taking as part of his cross-country journeys to visit his kids. Orchestra percussionist Robert (Sam Rockwell) can't help but feel like a disappointment to his father.

Here, De Niro plays Frank Goode. Eight months widowed, Frank now lives on his own, taking care of the daily tasks his wife largely handled. At the movie's start, Frank is looking forward to a visit from all four of his grown children. It isn't to be; each has a last minute excuse for why they can't make it, causing steaks, nice wine, and a new grill to go to waste. So, lonely Frank decides he'll be the one to make the long journeys and show up unannounced at his offspring's scattered residences. Since his doctor advises against air travel, Frank decides to make use of public ground transportation.

The first stop is New York City, where artist son David is nowhere to be found. Next comes Chicago, where daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsale), a successful advertising executive, does some transparent lying while politely encouraging Dad to be on his way.
In Denver, Frank is surprised to learn his son Robert (Sam Rockwell) is not a chamber orchestra conductor but a disposable banger of drums. The final stop is Las Vegas, where prepped dancer Rosie (Drew Barrymore) seems genuinely happy with the visit.

As the ironic title implies, everybody isn't fine. The Goode children's open line of communication with their mother has never extended to their father, who drove them to excel while he himself took pride in insulating telephone wires used across the nation. There's obvious symbolism there and in the family surname, which the film doesn't exactly trumpet. But while embracing some amount of subtlety, Everybody's Fine still manages to feel calculated in its coolness. It is not above a touch of cuteness, as in how Frank still sees his kids as the kids they haven't been in decades.

Adhering to the travelogue format, the film pauses from its strained familial relationships for scenes of Frank traveling by train, bus, truck, and so on. These bits could have been mere perfunctory transitions, but instead they offer some striking moments with a feel of tactful improvisation. But the heart of the beast is in those exchanges between father and children. They're poignantly uncomfortable, as pride and expectations get jostled while the truth is danced around. Sharing Frank's perspective, we silently detect only some of the unspoken secrets and lies, which are all exposed by the end.

On the elevator ride up, Vegas dancer Rosie (Drew Barrymore) is confident her father (Robert De Niro) will be impressed by her spacious digs. How is it that the kids are about thirty years younger yet Robert De Niro looks as he does today? Because it's a fantasy sequence as the soft filtering indicates.

Everybody's Fine is only the second writing credit (following Waking Ned Devine) and third directing credit (following Ned and Nanny McPhee) for Kirk Jones. He occasionally flirts with being obvious (a fatal flaw in human dramas striving for earnestness) and tends to keep things safe and digestible. But while you can fault the film for not being bolder, you can't really object to its savory storytelling.

Miramax may be finished, but as for De Niro, he has a third installment in the Ben Stiller series, tentatively titled Little Fockers, scheduled to open just before Christmas. And he recently changed agencies, a move declaring he's not throwing in the towel yet. One of the other projects now on the actor's plate is either a remake of or sequel to Midnight Run.

If there was any doubt that Disney was disappointed with Everybody's Fine's box office performance, it is removed in the fact that they're releasing it next Tuesday (less than three months after opening day) only on DVD and not the Blu-ray format that they and other studios are promoting disproportionately to modest adoption rates.

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2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French;
Closed Captioned; Extras Captioned and Subtitled
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

Everybody's Fine appears in its 2.40:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. Though the film seems to scream "film", its makers employed digital video cameras instead. The movie still looks nice, but there is something about the medium, even a high-end Genesis camera, that seems to betray the movie's sense of drama. There are no complaints to be made about the DVD, whose transfer is delightfully clean, sharp, and detailed. Obviously, this isn't a production you expect to provide an intense aural experience, but dialogue-driven though it may be, the Dolby 5.1 mix does supply some nice, broad atmosphere in stretches.

With his familiar Liverpudlian accent, Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings) describes the process of writing an end credits theme tune. This 94-year-old actor can't keep himself from breaking character and telling Robert De Niro how much he admires his work in this extended version of their diner scene. The main menu's photographs are truer to the film than the digital camera from the poster and cover.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

While the hope may be for Everybody's Fine to find its audience on DVD, the disc doesn't invite purchases with a hearty supplements slate. There are just two bonus features listings here.

First up is a featurette (9:45) on the making of... Paul McCartney's end credits song "(I Want to) Come Home".
Because he's a Beatle and a legend, McCartney is able to speak at length about his creative process and the film's story. We also get some footage of the orchestra recording the song. The fine number was expected to be an Oscar nominee, but instead had to settle for Golden Globe and Broadcast Film Critics nominations.

Next and last is a collection of seven deleted and extended scenes (11:43 altogether), many of which are evidently improvised between De Niro and quirky quasi-actors/speaking extras. There are also two elongated moments with David, the child we see the least of.

The disc opens with trailers for The Last Song, Oceans, and When in Rome, followed by an anti-smoking spot. The Sneak Peeks menu, which for once matches the other menus, also holds ads for Blu-ray, Old Dogs, and "Army Wives": The Complete Third Season.

The main menu rotates through still cast pictures.

The standard keepcase's one insert advertises Blu-ray, a format that Everybody's Fine has not been released on.

Three adult kids (Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale) together in the same room. Now if they just did this in the first place, Dad wouldn't have had to travel all around the country against medical advice. "Everybody's Fine" offers us a free sneak peek at the type of baby hilarity that may ensue around Robert De Niro in "Little Fockers."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Everybody's Fine didn't garner much theatrical notice or supply Robert De Niro with career-rebounding Oscar buzz. Instead, it paved the way for Disney to close and sell Miramax. That's unfortunate, because this certainly isn't a bad movie. Sure, it could be sharper and a little subtler. But nicely acted, written and directed, it's a perfectly fine human drama that is well worth seeing.

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Reviewed February 18, 2010.



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