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Everybody's Fine

by Leonard Maltin
December 12, 2009 3:52 AM
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Sentiment is a tough sell nowadays, but when I see the success of The Blind Side I know that audiences are just as susceptible as ever to manipulation by a skillful storyteller. Everybody’s Fine isn’t nearly as ambitious as The Blind Side, and doesn’t have the same broad appeal—there’s no sports angle, and it isn’t based on a true story—but it’s...

a sweet, likable film with a first-rate cast.

Critics, by and large, have been unkind, calling it predictable and cloying. I missed the press screenings, so my wife and I caught up with the film at our local multiplex on Sunday morning. We weren’t in the mood for anything heavy, and this admittedly superficial fable suited us fine. Then again, we’re the parents of a child in her 20s and, I suppose, openly vulnerable to its story elements: the main character is a retired, recently widowed man who crisscrosses the country to visit his grown children, as they’ve all canceled plans to join him for a weekend get-together. He decides to surprise them by showing up on their doorsteps, and discovers that each one has been keeping secrets from him—the kind of secrets they used to share with their mother.

Robert De Niro is perfectly agreeable in the role originated by Marcello Mastroianni in Guiseppe Tornatore’s 1990 Italian film Stanno Tutti Bene; his offspring are well played by Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell, and Kate Beckinsale. With actors of this caliber, the fact that the film glides ever-so-lightly over its story points and character development is more forgivable than it might be in lesser hands. What’s more, writer-director Kirk Jones, who made his reputation with Waking Ned Devine, punctuates the film with moments of quiet charm, as everyman De Niro talks with ordinary people he encounters during his travels.

I suppose I should say it plainly: I’m a sucker for sentimentality, and this movie appealed to me.

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