Friday, December 04, 2009

Film Review: Everybody’s Fine

Directed by: Kirk Jones
Performances by: Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Melissa Leo
Film Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The film, “Everybody's Fine” is directed by Kirk Jones and is a remake of the Giuseppe Tornatore 1990 film entitled “Stanno Tutti Bene” which translates to “Everybody’s Fine.” The original film was about a retired Sicilian bureaucrat named Matteo Scuro (as portrayed by Marcello Mastroianni) who has named his five children after characters from his favorite operas. They don’t arrive to a summer gathering and he decides to go visit them after optimistically determining they’re too busy with their successful lives to come see him. He does so only to discover their lives are not a he imagined them to be but learn to love them for what they are thus realizing, “Everybody’s Fine.” The film won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and was nominated for Golden Palm at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival as well as winning the David di Donatello Awards for David Best Music and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for Silver Ribbon Best Original Story.

The 2009 Kirk Jones version depicts the main character, Frank Goode (portrayed by Robert De Niro), not as optimistic as the one in the Giuseppe Tornatore film as well as other dissimilarities. But, without having the opportunity of seeing the original film, this reviewer can’t ascertain which is the better version. However, this reviewer can say this is a “Tear Jerker” that works beyond the purely emotional levels most common to the genre. It achieves a certain degree of poignancy enabling the audience to discover things within their relationships and themselves which may enhance their lives and not merely saturate a tissue.

The film explores the journey Frank Goode has as he seeks to connect with his grown children after the death of his wife. We discover during the course of the film his children has always told their mother things they never told him. It is also discovered Frank had something to do with the installation of a certain substance placed on Telephone cable to keep them from corroding thus enabling people to contact one another without fear of a disconnection. It strikes us ironic that he helped make it possible for people to connect with one another when he cannot connect with his own children.

Essentially, the film is really about discovery. Frank begins to discover the truth about who his children really are and how he has effected their lives. This comes with a realization of the reason why they told their mother of their life’s challenges was because their father would always try to step in, push them, and try to fix everything to his liking. Although this is what he thinks a father should do, it depletes his children with a sense of being able to live their lives their way. It also creates the perception they can never really be accepted as they are by their father and there will always be a sense of shame for them.

In his search of discovering who his children are, there are moments in the film indicating Frank has an internal knowing about his children. One takes place at a roadside grave site where he gives a moment of silence. One can take this to mean somehow he knows of the fate of one of his children without being told what it is. Another moment is when he suffers a heart attack and envisions himself talking to his children when they were children. They reveal the truths about themselves and each other that were hidden from him. This is an aspect of parenthood seldom explored or acknowledged but every mother and father knows of its existence.

The film explore other aspects of parenting and the effects it has on the family along with the reasons why they come into being. Although this reviewer has no children of his own, he can appreciate these revelations as they can be transposed to other forms of relationships including the one with himself. While this reviewer has a desire to watch the original 1990 film as it may have more profound lessons to be learned, he is quite content to allow those contained in this film to settle for a while.

“Everybody's Fine” is rated PG-13 and is currently running at The Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg, PA. You may call 570-421-3456 or visit their website at for show times and dates. Most films run one week but some films may be held over for an additional week or two depending on ticket sales.

After the Friday December 4th showing of the film, The Forwardian Arts Society Gathered in The Pocono Community Theater’s Café to discuss the numerous aspects of it. The turnout was quite sizable and led to some very in-depth conversations not only relating to the discoveries depicted in the film but of those found in each person‘s life. We invite you to join us Friday January 1st to watch a film and participate in an equally engaging conversation. You’ll find more photographs on The Forwardian Arts Society Film and Chat Gathering 2009 Gallery.

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