Today’s Prayer Focus

Everybody's Fine

MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for thematic elements and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson

Moral Rating: Average
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults Teens
Genre: Adventure Comedy Drama Remake
Length: 1 hr. 50 min.
Year of Release: 2009
USA Release: December 4, 2009 (wide—2,200+ theaters)
DVD: February 23, 2010
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Featuring Robert De Niro (as Frank Goode), Drew Barrymore (Rosie), Kate Beckinsale (Amy), Sam Rockwell, Lucian Maisel, Damian Young, James Frain, Melissa Leo, Katherine Moennig, Brendan Sexton III, James Murtaugh, Austin Lysy, Chandler Frantz, Lily Sheen, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Mackenzie Milone, Kene Holliday, E.J. Carroll, Lou Carbonneau, Mandell Butler, Caroline Clay, Katy Grenfell, Lynn Cohen, Jayne Houdyshell, Kelly McAndrew, Jason Harris, Julián Rebolledo, Lynn Blades, Kevin Collins, Kevin Martin, Ben Schwartz, Debargo Sanyal, Scott Cohen, Jackie Cronin, Allie Woods Jr., Sonja Stuart, Mimi Lieber, Mattie Hawkinson, Robert Niebrzydowski
Director Kirk Jones
“Waking Ned Devine”
Producer Miramax Films, Radar Pictures, Hollywood Gang Productions, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Ted Field, Craig J. Flores, Callum Greene, Glynis Murray, Gianni Nunnari, Nathalie Peter-Contesse, Vitaliy Versace
Distributor: Miramax. Trademark logo.
, a division of beIN Media Group

“Frank wanted to holidays to be picture perfect. What he got was family.”

In 1974 singer/songrwriter Harry Chapin released his now infamous folk rock single “Cat’s in the Cradle.” The song was about a boy’s relationship with his father, and how when he was young his father was too busy to take a vested interest in his life. But now that he’s older, he finds that he’s now too busy to spend any time with his retired father. It’s a sad but poignant song, one that speaks a lot about the importance and influence of parents in their children’s lives. It’s that spirit that embodies “Everybody’s Fine”, an American remake of a 1990 Italian film by the same name. It tells the story of a recently widowed man who decides on a whim to visit his four grown children, only to find that their lives aren’t what he thought they were all along.

Frank (Robert De Niro) worked his entire life to provide for his wife and kids. Working on pvc covering for telephone lines, he and his wife successfully raised four kids: two boys and two girls. But since the death of his wife Frank is left with an empty house and fibrosis of the lungs. When all four of his kids cancel their planned trip to visit him, Frank decides against the advice of his doctor to surprise them each with a visit. As Frank sees his kids one by one, he realizes that they all have secrets they’re keeping from him. Whether it’s their lack of success, trouble with their marriage or something else, each child has kept something from him. While they’re mother was the one they talked to, Frank was the father who only got the good news. His kids wanted him to be proud of them.

It’s tough to watch as Frank is heartbroken in each of his four visits as he realizes he’s not near as close to his kids as he once thought. He begins to question his life and just wants his kids to be happy. It’s a profound change in his life and he works hard to once again get his family together around one table for a Christmas meal.

“Everybody’s Fine” is sad, funny, touching, and ultimately redemptive. While its themes open up the possibility for some melodramatic and overly sappy moments, the film deftly handles these moments with a good sense of realism. That’s mostly because of the performance of Robert De Niro as Frank. Once considered one of America’s greatest actors, De Niro’s latest films like “Righteous Kill” and “Hide and Seek” have left quite a bit to be desired. De Niro’s performance here is quiet, understated, and emoted perfectly. It’s easily his best work of the decade.

There are several other qualities to applaud in “Everybody’s Fine” like the importance of family and honesty with each other. The objectionable content is kept to a minimum as well. There’s one scene that involves some heavy language by Frank. It’s mostly played for laughs as he is saying these words in front of his grandson and keeps apologizing, but in the scene he uses several heavy profanities. Also the film alludes to one of the kids having some homosexual tendencies, but it’s kept to a minimum.

While the boy in Chapin’s song never rekindled that relationship with his father, “Everybody’s Fine” offers the chance for others not to make the same mistake. It also will immediately remind the viewer of their own family life, good or bad, and how their relationship with their father is. It made this reviewer thankful for a father who was always involved and proud of his son no matter what he did, and that’s irreplaceable. Merry Christmas, Pops.

Violence: None / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This is a beautiful movie because at the end it recognizes that everyone has problems, but that Everybody’s Fine. As Christians we may have problems, but we have a redeemer and a Savior who never leaves us and is a very present help in a time of trouble. So, in effect, everything’s fine.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Gregory Rodriguez, age 29 (USA)
Positive—Heartwarming performance by Robert De Niro as a caring father who desires the best from his grown children. Good study in what happens in family dynamics when kids feel pressured. My Dad and father-in-law are in their 80s and I thought I’d get this on DVD for them when it comes out. I am recommending the movie in the theatre to my brother and sister; reminds me of my own family growing up. A real contemplative film; makes you think. Not real noisy. Tense moments are fitting. Heartaches are real. Humor is genuine. Ending is good, redemptive, the way it should be.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
David Serry, age 56 (USA)
Positive—I’m pleasantly surprised. I would have ended this tale differently, leaving out a few details like the contents of the letters he addressed to each of his (De Niro’s) children. Some things are best left to the audiences' imagination. Spelling everything out detracts from a film (in some instances).

“Barton Fink” is a film I saw recently that left a lot for the audience to fill in. Pressing questions too, but leaving them open-ended strengthened the climax. All in all though, I enjoyed the natural timing of the occasional humor and the moral behind “Everybody’s Fine.” That is, family should take care of family. Period. This film is a gentle reminder to take care of our loved ones in sickness and health. Being there or nearby for them and vice versa. I can’t imagine having kids of my own scattered all across the globe, a recently deceased spouse, and a myriad of half-truths connecting the battered remains of my relationships. I just can’t, and I see this movie (oddly enough) as impetus to be a good father, whenever that stage of my life may come.

By “good,” I don’t mean a dad who always dotes on his kids or is PC or even correct all the time, but a godly man who raises his children in the way they should go, so that when they are old, they will not depart from it (cf Prov. 22). De Niro’s character loved and provided for his family, but maybe pushed his ideals a little too harshly on his kids during their formative years. Some of them met those expectations while others settled for mediocrity or fell by the wayside.

I don’t think it’s healthy for a child to believe he or she has to earn their father’s love by a single, validating act or milestone, much less EARN for that matter. Dad’s love should be a given. So while the kids in this life-lessons tale are partly to blame for being so physically distant from dear ol' dad, it is also the pa’s fault for having been a little less than accessible in other respects while they were growing up. This film offers a lot to ponder, least for me anyways. Seasoned parents, heck even parents, may find less that resonate as loudly for them. I dunno.

I’ll have to rewatch this when I’m a little more discerning and have earned my belly from all the years of marriage and kids.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Keenum, age 23 (USA)
Neutral—I think that the person who reviewed this movie for a christian audience should have mention the fact that there is homosexuality in the movie. I feel this is important in the moral rating as well.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
K.S, age 25 (USA)
Movie Critics
…Though a bit too artful to merit the pejorative “tearjerker” label, the film is rigorously streamlined to deliver a good emotional uppercut by the end, and purely on the strength of its craft, it connects. But aside from an atypically mannered Robert De Niro, there’s very little new to see along the way. …
Andrew Barker, Variety
…an American remake that’s better than the European original. …becomes a satisfying family story that accomplishes something unlikely but essential. …
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
…Ultimately depressing… a heartfelt, yet depressing and run-of-the-mill drama…
…overall, an inconsistent tone and garbled through-line result in a story whose message is unclear and whose lessons are forgettable. … Some well-observed details and a credible performance from Robert De Niro help make it feel genuine now and again before it collapses into simplistic and sentimental clichés. …
Duane Dudek, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel