If ex-CIA operative Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) of “Meet the Parents” were an old geezer trying to reconnect with his adult children, he’d likely bring his lie detector.
In “Everybody’s Fine,” retired widower Frank Goode (De Niro) could use such a device.
His adult children, whom he surprises in un announced visits, never level with him. Riding buses across country, he brags about their successes in glowing terms. But when he encounters them, realities are not so rosy, though the offspring do their darnedest to keep up appearances.
Son Robert of Denver does perform in an orchestra…as a percussionist, not a conductor. Chicago daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsale) is a successful advertising executive, but her kid is a brat and her marriage on the rocks.
In Las Vegas, daughter Rosie may be a dancer. However, her gorgeous home is not her own, though the baby she’s watching is.
As for painter David (Austin Lysy) of Manhattan, he’s nowhere to be found. It’s a mystery that almost destroys father Frank.
Written and directed by Kirk Jones, “Everybody’s Fine” is based on a 1990 Marcello Mastroiannivehicle called, “Stanno Tutti Bene.” Seeing De Niro as a lonely old man traveling the country in search of family members is also reminiscent of Oscar-nominated Jack Nicholson in 2003’s “About Schmidt” or the Art Carney Oscar-winning role in 1974’s “Harry and Tonto.”
While “Everybody’s Fine” is not quite up to the level of the other two films, De Niro is on par with their lead actors.
His Frank Goode is sad, but strong, struggling in his quest for the truth, yet often profoundly disappointed with the answers.
It seems that throughout their marriage, his late wife sheltered him, allowing him the false fulfillment of his dreams for his children. In a strange way, “Fine” is a comingof age film for senior citizens, a final painful acceptance of the way things really are.
In fact, on the bus, Frank boasts of the telephone wires along the train lines, wires that he proudly spent his life assembling as a factory worker.
He believes that those wires connect the world and his children, a denial of something called, “cell phones.”
“Everybody’s Fine” is a performance film, with a less-than-perfect plot.
Still, a great De Niro performance is worth a trek to the theater.
And that’s no lie.