Saturday, December 12, 2009

Review: Everybody's Fine

Robert De Niro has done plenty of larger-than-life tough guy roles, but now he's finally done something that I wish more actors would do... act their age. Harrison Ford (nearly 70) is still playing action hero Indy, and everyone's laughing at him. Clint Eastwood played the old guy in Gran Torino, but he was still channeling Dirty Harry. In Everybody's Fine, De Niro plays a calm, reserved, lonely old man, and it's pitch perfect.

Like Up, the film starts with an old man dealing with the recent passing of his wife and adjusting to life alone. But whereas Carl Frederickson went on a fun adventure in South America, De Niro's road trip is constantly sad and depressing. All 4 of his children were going to come in for a nice family weekend, but one by one they all cancel, and De Niro must travel around the country to surprise them with a visit.

Along the way there are moments of light hearted humor as De Niro plays the stereotypical old man. He shows off pictures of his kids to strangers. He doesn't know how to use his luggage. He still uses a camera that requires rolls of film. But forget those minor laughs; the meat of the story is internal.

It's the story of a father finding out that he doesn't really know much about his kids, and it's mostly his fault. They shared everything with their mother, and only the generic good news with dad, and now he wants to change that. There's actually a lot more depth to this story than I anticipated. He may play the bumbling, out of touch parent, but he's still mentally sharp. And yeah, he wants to hear what's really troubling his kids, but is he prepared to deal with? And sure, the kids want to be there for pop, but there's a lot of bad shit to talk about, and they just want to protect him.

This isn't the usual Christmas movie that comes out every year (you can't tell by the sucky Christmas-movie poster). It's actually one that a lot of family's can relate to. De Niro anchors the movie with quiet sympathy, more than making up for a supporting cast that phones it in. It's not the best or most memorable film by far, but it resonates with you. I can recognize it's mediocrity, but there will still parts that affected me emotionally, and that fascinates me.


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