Thursday, December 3, 2009

Everybody's Fine (Rhoades)

With “Everybody’s Fine,” stanno tutti bene
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

When I worked in New York, I often had lunch at the Tribeca Grill, tucked away in that part of Lower Manhattan known as “the triangle below Canal Street.” Actor Robert De Niro owns the popular eatery, its brick walls decorated with abstract expressionist paintings by his late father, painter-sculptor Robert De Niro Sr.

Being a good son of Italy, De Niro has highest regards for his late dad. In fact, he cites that as one of his main reasons for doing his current film, a sentimental family dramedy called “Everybody’s Fine.”

He admits that the “father theme” reminded him of his past relationship with De Niro Sr. It was his father who encouraged him to follow his dream to become an actor. Not a likely pastime for a skinny guinea kid growing up in New York’s Little Italy.

But with two Academy Awards and iconic roles in such memorable films as “Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellows,” and “The Godfather Part II,” Robert De Niro can settle back and choose his roles on a whim. Like such hit-or-miss choices as “Meet the Parents,” and “Stardust.” Or “Everything’s Fine.”

You can catch De Niro in “Everything’s Fine,” now playing at the Tropic Cinema.

If this story of a widower taking a whimsical trip to reconnect with his grownup children seems familiar, that’s because it’s a remake of Guiseppe Tornatore’s 1990 Italian film, Stanno tutti bene,” a comedy starring Marcello Mastroianni. (Don’t forget that Tornatore gave us that classic paean to the love of movies, “Cinema Paradiso.”)

De Niro confesses that another reason he signed on is because Mastroianni was one of his favorite actors growing up.

Plus the fact he loved writer-director Kirk Jones’ new script. That’s quite a compliment for a young filmmaker with only “Waking Ned Devine” and “Nanny McPhee” under his belt.

“I like Kirk Jones, the director,” De Niro says. “I think everything he does will be special. Good directors can bring certain things out of you, with their intensity or gentleness or sensitivity or understanding. They can make an actor feel he can do no wrong.”

This story (this time around) follows Frank Goode, a widower who expects his four adult children to come home for Christmas. But when the kids opt out on flimsy excuses, he decides to ignore his doctor’s advice and make a surprise call on each of them – traveling by Greyhound to their respective residences in New York, Chicago, Denver, and Las Vegas.

Upon his arrival, Frank Goode asks each of his children the same poignant question: “Are you happy?”

Don’t expect a Christmas-y comedy or holiday yuckfest. This is more of a heartfelt story, weighty with dysfunctional family emotions and yuletide sentimentality.

De Niro proves himself a masterful performer despite the clichés of the storyline. And Drew Barrymore as the Daddy’s Girl who dances in Vegas, Kate Beckinsale as the overachieving ad exec, Katherine Moenning as the off-kilter daughter, and Sam Rockwell as the musician seeking his father’s approval do a decent job playing the four offspring whose lives are a bit messy after all.

“I related to Frank, obviously, and drew on my own experiences,” says De Niro. “You draw on whatever’s relevant to the part you’re playing. It makes it more personal. And there was a lot here. I have five children, two grandchildren.”

Family is important to De Niro. After his father passed away in 1993, he asked his mother to write down what she remembered of earlier generations, but she died without getting around to it.

So perhaps he’s creating his own pseudo-family history with “Everything’s Fine.” Because if you ask him, he’ll agree that stanno tutti bene.”

srhoades@aol.com
[from Solares Hill]

1 comment:

Marie said...

Very interesting. Denro always gives great meaning and insight.
Always makes movie exciting.
Enjoyed immensly.