The marketing for Everybody's Fine would have you believe that the film is a heartfelt dramedy about a widowed father coming to terms with the fact that his scattered children have, in a sense, outgrown him. From the smiling faces on the poster, or the liberal use of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" throughout the trailer, one might expect a balanced combination of laughter and tears meant to simultaneously move and uplift theatergoers. In truth, however, Everybody's Fine is all tears and no laughter, perhaps the saddest and most joyless film released in the last several months. Any quirkiness or levity implied in the marketing is entirely the invention of clever editing and musical choices. The film itself is an unrepentant, lump-in-the-throat drama that works emotionally yet ultimately fails with regard to its storytelling.
The set-up is fairly evident from the outset. Robert DeNiro plays Frank Goode, a newly-widowed father whose children one-by-one cancel their holiday dinner plans to gather at home. Despite some ill-health, Frank decides to take a cross-country trip to surprise each of them. What the trailer implies is that each child is simply too busy for the visit, humoring Frank for a day or two and then shuffling him off to the next sibling in line. What the trailer fails to communicate is that David, Frank's fourth child, is missing in Mexico on a potential drug-and-alcohol bender, and that the reason that each child shuffles Frank along is that, for some unexplained reason, none of them want to communicate this fact until they've gathered more solid information. Why they don't think Frank would be able to handle this news, or why they can't keep it a secret while still politely entertaining their father, whom they love, is simply beyond the reasoning of this reviewer. Regardless, Frank shows up, one of his kids acts distant and aloof, puts him on a train â rinse and repeat until your heart is virtually broken by just how dejected and disappointed this sympathetic window is made by his children. And just when you think things can't get worse, of course, they doâ¦
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