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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this holiday drama starring Robert De Niro deals with some heavy themes that aren't age-appropriate for young children. Of the main character's four grown-up children, one (mostly unseen) is a jailed substance abuser, and the others are grappling with issues including sexuality, divorce, and single parenthood. There's quite a bit of swearing for a PG-13 movie, especially during a comical scene between a grandfather and grandson ("f--k," "s--t"). There's also a lot of lying, and one character dies (off screen), while another ends up in the hospital after being mugged. Still, in the end, the movie aims to send a positive message about acceptance and honesty between parents and their adult children.
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What's the story?
A remake of the Italian film Stanno Tutti Bene, EVERYBODY'S FINE chronicles the cross-country journey that widower Frank (Robert De Niro) embarks on when none of his four adult children is able to visit him for Christmas. A proud blue-collar retiree, Frank is alarmed at how evasive and tight-lipped his kids are, even though he knows they used to confide in his late wife. His artist son, David (Austin Lysy), is nowhere to be found when Frank stops in New York; when he arrives at his advertising-executive daughter Amy's (Kate Beckinsale) manse in Chicago, he reconnects with his tween grandson but is disappointed when Amy says they're too busy to host him for a long stay. So it's on to Robert (Sam Rockwell), whom Frank thinks is an orchestra conductor -- but he's in fact a percussionist who claims that he's about to leave on tour, so he passes his dad off to the baby of the family, Rosie (Drew Barrymore), supposedly a Las Vegas dancer. During each of Frank's awkward visits with his kids, it becomes painfully clear that something is amiss with each -- and that there's a disturbing reason that David wasn't home. But tragedy could lead to opportunity for Frank and his family.
Is it any good?
Director Kirk Jones' adaptation is surprisingly affecting, given how overly sentimental, predictable, and downright ridiculous it sometimes is. For all of the plot's maudlin trappings, any parent in the audience will be able to relate to the way that Frank repeatedly sees each of his grown-up kids as the children they once were (each is played by a child actor several times throughout the film) -- even as they speak like adults. It's a sappy gimmick, but it still gets you -- how widower Frank is trying really hard to relate to his kids as the independent adults that they are even as he desperately wants them to need his guidance and protection the way they did when they were younger. The conceit is most effective in a dream-like sequence in which Frank confronts the younger versions of his kids with the truths he's gleaned from his trip but didn't have the courage to bring up in real life.
De Niro is believable enough as a curmudgeonly retiree who expects the best from the kids he worked so hard to support, and Barrymore is especially radiant as Rosie, who's obviously the closest to her dad. Rockwell's segment feels rushed, but it includes most of the movie's humor, as does the bits between Frank and his grandson Jack (Lucian Maisel), who's a far better golfer than his swearing grandpa. The irony that Frank spent his entire career protecting wires that help people communicate when he seems to have such trouble communicating with his family isn't exactly subtle. But just when you're is sick of all the wire imagery, a painting David made in tribute to his father makes them all worth suffering through -- be warned, a Kleenex could come in handy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's lesson about parent-child relationships. Which of Frank's children seems to have the healthiest relationship with him? What about his grandson, Jack? How do secrets and lies affect Frank and his kids?
How does this film compare to other holiday family movies? Why do holiday movies often seem to feature families in distress or with relationship problems?
How does the movie portray sibling relationships? Is it believable that Frank's children would keep such important aspects of their lives a secret from him but not each other?
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