Another film being sold as a warm-hearted family Christmas film is Kirk Jones’ Everybody’s Fine, and though it is a good movie, it’s more of a quiet drama of a widower who finds that not all is not fine as he travels by bus (health issues prevent him from flying) to pay his family surprise visits after they renege on visiting him for the holidays. Robert DeNiro is excellent as the patriarch who makes some unsettling discoveries with each grown child he visits. Kate Beckinsdale, an excellent Sam Rockwell and Drew Barrymore play three of the four adult children; the fourth child’s whereabouts are shrouded in secrecy over hushed conversations over the coated telephone wires that DeNiro’s character had a hand in.
While some of DeNiro’s recent career choices can—and probably should be questioned- he does some good, subtle, reflective work here. Throughout the film there are touches that show his character is more aware than he lets on; the viewer can see it, but DeNiro doesn’t hit you over the head with it. The scenes in particular where DeNiro visits Rockwell, whom he believes to be a symphony conductor, have a quiet anguish about them, as DeNiro registers that he knows he’s being given the brush-off.
There are some revelations that I don’t want to reveal, but much of the film works as an examination of the pitfalls of parent-child relationships: how much truth should be told; is it better to spare someone’s feelings; at what point does parental push become an excessive shove; the disappointment of not being the fulfillment of your parents’ hopes.
Many scenes work well: DeNiro’s conversations with strangers, including a warm truck driver nicely etched by Melissa Leo; a harrowing plane ride; and a lovely encounter between DeNiro and a young woman who works an art gallery (Must confess, got a little weepy here). There is the requisite feel-good uplift at the end, but even that is a little tempered, and handled nicely by all concerned.