Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Aug 29th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Liars Club

film_EverybodysFineFather uncovers hidden family secrets in bittersweet 'Everybody's Fine'

When was the last time you called your folks? You might want to make that call after seeing Everybody's Fine, a wistful drama of family dynamics and the lies we tell ourselves and our loved ones—just to get by. Although the film doesn't entirely resist the urge to tie things up in a neat package, the story is surprisingly schmaltz-free in the telling, mostly rising above easy sentimentality for a thoughtful look at parenting, expectations and disappointment.

British writer-director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine) adapted the story from a 1990 Italian film starring Marcello Mastroianni. Jones cast Robert De Niro in one of his more persuasive recent roles, and plunks him down in the middle of America as Frank Goode, patriarch of a large, but far-flung clan. Eight months a widower, Frank is puttering around his house in the New England suburbs getting ready to welcome home his four adult children for a weekend reunion.

But when they start calling in, one by one, to say they can't come, Frank starts to realize how removed he's become from his kids' lives; staying in touch was something he always left to his late wife. So he decides to go visit each of his children instead, charting a cruse by train and bus. Retired from a long career applying PVC coating to telephone wire, Frank is eager to tell a stranger on the train about his odyssey to see his kids, boasting of the "million feet of wire (it took) to get 'em where they are today."

Where that is, exactly, is what the story is about. In New York, Frank waits for hours one night outside the apartment of his son, David, an artist, but David never comes home. Hopping on a bus to Chicago, he finds daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsale) at home with her husband and adolescent son. Amy is a partner in a swanky advertising firm, and mistress of a gorgeous house, but Frank senses tension at the family dinner table and in the lame excuses she makes to keep Frank from staying any longer than one night.

Heading west for Denver, Frank drops in on his musical son, Robert (Sam Rockwell), a fidgety underachiever content to play bass drum in a symphony orchestra. ("It's low-pressure and the money's good," he shrugs.) Robert doesn't exactly encourage the old man to stick around, either (he says the orchestra is leaving on tour the next day), so Frank heads for Las Vegas to see his daughter, Rosie (Drew Barrymore), a dancer. She's happy to spend some more time with him, but by now he's feeling a profound sense of disconnect, not only between the reality of his kids' lives and the stories they've been telling him, but between the adult strangers they've become and the children they were. (Who pop in and out of the present-day action as Frank fondly remembers them.)

Despite a vein of tragedy that weaves through the story, it's not really a dark film; the offspring aren't horribly estranged from their dad (the worst anyone can say about him is he "pushed them pretty hard" as kids to achieve their dreams), and their problems are mostly too commonplace to justify their conspiracy of white lies. The film is more acute in charting Frank's quiet disillusion that he's no longer an important enough factor in his kids' lives for them to confide in, which will resonate with most parents. (In an inventive moment toward the end, Frank confronts his kids in their childhood selves, who tell him their truths at last, and counsel him to "Act like nothing's wrong. That's what Mom did.")

It's too bad Jones didn't stick to Frank's viewpoint throughout. But he can't resist the motif of those telephone wires, burning up with conversations the siblings have among themselves in voice-over, telling the audience more than Frank knows about his kids instead of letting us figure out the truth, as Frank does, along the way. film_everybodys_fineNor can the director resist an idyllic coda of harmony and reconciliation tacked onto the end. Still, overall, it's a well-acted, often moving tale of the way families grow, separate, and reconfigure over time.

EVERYBODY'S FINE ★★★ (out of four) Watch movie trailer >>>

With Robert De Niro, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Drew Barrymore. Written and directed by Kirk Jones.

A Miramax release. Rated PG-13. 100 minutes.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual