Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Everybody's Fine

A film starring Robert De Niro,is a remake of the Giuseppe Tornatore film Stanno Tutti Bene that is written and directed by Kirk Jones

Widower, Frank Goode, is readying himself for a holiday visit from his four children when the phone starts ringing. The cancellations roll in, each one with a different excuse. Frank does not take this lightly and sets out on a road trip to pay surprise visits to his offspring in order to get closer to them, to know them better. Little does he know that he hardly knows them at all.

The Goode family has many secrets. They only give their father the often embellished good news and spare him the true details of their lives. Frank Goode worked at an ordinary job fabricating the plastic coating that covers telephone cables. He, like most parents, wanted more for his kids and was not afraid to push them. Thus the push and pull of expectations and independence from them has driven each of the Goode children far from home.

Robert De Niro is believable as the aging father. We have come to accept him in this role since Meet the Fockers. His former mobster persona allows him to realistically portray this father figure that everyone seems to fears just a little bit. We understand as they all strive to please him even if the way to do this is to stay away.

Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckingsale and Sam Rockwell give adequate performances of three of the Goode children, even if they do seem a bit stiff and fake. After all, that is the point. They are playing characters who are themselves acting, playing a role. These are not genuine folks, but characters that do not delve much below the surface for fear of being exposed.

The visual effects of the film add to the storyline. As Frank Goode sees each of his children, a flashback to what they looked like as children appears as they speak to him. What parent does not at times, look into the faces of their grown children, only to see the small child they once were. We miss these little people so and would welcome the chance to turn back the clock and spend some more time with them. We can identify with Frank Goode as we wish we could take back some of the hours spent at the office or in front of the television, and spend them sitting around the family table as we savor each moment.

The image of the telephone lines are used throughout the film. As Frank moves from city to city, his children relay messages about him and the fate of another sibling. The phone lines illustrate how they are all connected even as they live apart.

Frank travels along in his favorite state, oblivion, until a series of events unfold that force him to admit that everything is not fine. The movie illustrates with clarity, a character who like so many people, pass through much of their lives with blinders on. It is only when a life and death situation occurs that he faces reality and is able to accept the truth about himself and others.

This film is two parts drama, one part mystery, with a dash of comedy for good measure. Although it has not drawn much in the way of critical acclaim or box office success, I enjoyed it for its simplicity and for its message. Savor the present for it is too soon past,and learn to accept life the way that it is.


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