Monday, November 30, 2009

EVERYBODY'S FINE? DeNiro and cast are at least OK in Kirk Jones' holiday remake


It's been 18 years since TrustMovies has seen the origi-
nal Everybody's Fine, co-writer/dir-
ector Giuseppi Tornatore's follow
-up to his wildly successful Cinema Paradiso. I remem-
ber enjoying the film and being moved and amused by it, yet it seemed notic-
eably less "special" than the filmmaker's earlier success. Ah: the curse of the sophomore effort,

many of us decided at the time. I suspect now that the film holds up better than some of us may remember because its American remake, coming nearly two decades later and despite a rather clunky scenario that spells things out when it should simply let them unfold -- the new EVERYBODY'S FINE -- directed by Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine, and the under-rated, little-seen Nanny McPhee) has many good moments along the way, and, yes, some others that should make you grimace.


In the original, no less than Marcello Mastroianni played the lead; here it's Robert De Niro (above). What a surprise-- and a pleasure-- it is to see this guy being nice and relatively normal. No heavy drama (Raging Bull), no over-the-top (and not all that funny) comedy (Meet the Parents), just a regular working stiff who, widowed and with his four kids spread around the country, each of whom has reneged on the promise of the holiday reunion, decides to make an impromptu visit to them instead.

Jones has adapted his screenplay from the original (credited to Massimo De Rita, Tonino Guerra and Signore Tornatore) and he appears to have stuck pretty closely to it, while setting his lead char-
acter's adventures in the USA rather than Italy. What this Everyman discovers -- about his kids and himself -- as he visits first one child then another is what leads the film to its happy/sad, feel-good
-with-reservations conclusion.

Early on the De Niro character imagines his children's present lives while still seeing them in his own mind as young kids. This "trick" is repeated often enough to become tiresome and yet there are mo-
ments along the way when it packs a punch. What it means to be a "success" in the eyes of your parents and how this effects your adult life is always a theme worth exploring, as are the inevitable disappointments inherent in the lives of adults of whatever age.

While it's difficult to get too excited over Everybody's Fine, it is just as hard not to recommend it: for Mr. DeNiro's good work and that of the the crisp-unto-breakability Kate Beckinsale (shown two photos up), the goofy/loveable Drew Barrymore (above) and the slightly seedy Sam Rockwell (below), all of whom are as good as the script permits. The tear or two you shed by movie's end might as easily be for the better film this could have been as for the modicum of humor, good will and genuine emotion it's been able to generate.

Everybody's Fine, distributed by Miramax, opens wide across the country on Friday, December 4.

2 comments:

yjc said...

Thank you for your review. I'm one of the excited since I'm a fan of Sam Rockwell. Amazing blog by the way even if you already know it.

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, yjc! Nice to hear some praise for the blog. I just clicked on your initials and found that you have your own site -- MOVIE TRUST -- where I just spent a little time. I'll go back for seconds, too,

Yes, Rockwell is pretty wonderful, and in so many different genres: Joshua, Choke, Frost/Nixon, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (and on and on). Even in lesser movies, he makes them seem like more.