Everybody’s Fine: Remake of Tornatore Film, Starring Robert De Niro

“Everybody’s Fine,” the American remake of Giuseppe Tornatore’s family reconciliation tale (“Stanno Tutti Bene”), is inferior to that 1990 Italian feature in every respect: story, characters, tone, and especially acting.
In the hands of writer-director Kirk Jones, what was a sensitive and emotional two-generational dramedy about the relationships between a widower and his children has become a sentimental, predictable, and humorless melodrama, marred by an almost unbearably schmlatzy ending.
World-premiering at the AFI Film Fest, in November, “Everybody’s Fine” will be released in December by Miramax as the kind of family fare that viewers may want to see during the holidays.
I was not a big fan of Kirk Jones’ previous outings, “Waking Ned Devine” and “Nanny McPhee,” though, relatively speaking, they were better and more enjoyable pictures. In theory, “Everybody’s Fine” is well cast with an ensemble headed by Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell, and Kate Beckinsale, but none of the actors, especially De Niro, who’s in almost every scene, is able to rise above the literal banality of the text.
A road movie in which the recurrent visual motifs are wires, and the sounds consist of blurred voices during telephone conversations, signal right away that what we are about to see is a conventional meller.

Essaying the part of Marcello Mastroianni, who was great, De Niro plays Frank Goode, a sixtysomething man who has spent his adult life working in a local wire factory, devoted all his time and energy to support his family. Now retired, he realizes that over the years he has spent too little time with his four children and that it’s time to reconnect.

Frank’s late wife, to whom he was married for 40 years, was always the family’s emotional center, the mediator between him his kids. However, all alone now, he decides that it’s his responsibility to keep an eye on them, see what they’re up to. In a moment of inspiration, he invites the whole extended family for a barbeque weekend. Preparations go quite well–until one by one, they each find “good” reasons to cancel.
Undeterred, and despite strict warnings from his doctor to slow down, Frank decides to take matters into his own hands. He packs a small suitcase and sets out on a journey across the U.S., hoping to surprise each of his children and share in their success and happiness.
First stop in Frank’s travel is New York City, where his painter son David lives, but, alas, David is missing and Frank leaves an envelope under the door, hoping to hear from him soon. From New York Frank goes to Chicago to visit his daughter (Kate Beckinsale), a top advertising exec, but tensions in the house suggest marital problems.
The tale gets more interesting as it goes along, in large measure due to the acting of Sam Rockwell and Drew Barrymore.   In Denver, Frank expects to find Robert (Rockwell), known as “the orchestral conductor,” a happy, fulfilled man, only to realize that Robert is just a player, and a minor one at that.
Also eye-opening and a bitter pill to swallow is Frank’s visit with his youngest daughter, Rosie (Drew Barrymore), presumably a dancer in a Vegas show, except that the show has closed down, or so he’s told.
Before long, it becomes clear to Frank what we viewers have known from the very first scene, that his children are not quite as happy or successful as his wife had always reported, or to paraphrase Sally Field’s mom in “Forrest Gump,” that “Life is NOT a box of chocolates.”
Upon returning home from a journey that ends with the revelation of a tragedy, Frank himself is hospitalized for heart attack. In the end, after learning some lessons, Frank pays a visit to his wife at the cemetery, reporting to her that despite everything “everybody’s fine.”
As a story, the film makes more sense in its original context, Italy, a country known for the importance of family values and for the cultural centrality of the mother. But even twenty years ago, Tornatore’s film was a tad old-fashioned, lagging behind the zeitgeist. These dimensions are more apparent in the Hollywood version, set in the new millennium, during which family values have gone though a radical change.
“Everybody’s Fine” wants to have it both ways, to celebrate as well as to criticize a stern father who pushed his children too had for a “larger” goal. Hence, when tragic news about one child is revealed, Frank feels responsible only to be told that if he didn’t push hard, his son would never have become the artist that he is.
 
With sharper writing and more subtle direction, “Everybody’s Fine” could have been a heartfelt serio comedy about one typical family, in which parents and siblings, living miles apart, are too distracted with the stress of modern life to find time to call each other, and are too preoccupied with their own family and friends to find time to visit home.
After watching the Italian film, I felt a need and obligation to call my family and be a better son, brother, and uncle. But after the Hollywood film, I was just relieved that it was over and felt slightly embarrassed for De Niro, who’s asked to emote and cry in ways that made his performance (and the whole story) unbearably schmaltzy.
Cast
Frank Goode – Robert De Niro
Rosie – Drew Barrymore
Amy – Kate Beckinsale
Robert – Sam Rockwell
Colleen – Melissa Leo
Jack – Lucian Maisel
Jeff – Damian Young
Tom – James Frain
Credits
A Miramax Films release presented in association with Radar Pictures of a Hollywood Gang production.
Produced by Gianni Nunnari, Ted Field, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Glynis Murray.
Executive producers, Craig J. Flores, Meir Teper, Mike Weber, Joe Rosenberg, Callum Greene.
Co-producer, Nathalie Peter-Contesse.
Directed, written by Kirk Jones, based on the 1990 film “Stanno tutti bene” directed by Giuseppe Tornatore; screenplay, Tornatore, Tonino Guerra, Massimo de Rita.

 

 

 

 

Trailer emanuellevy.com/videos/view.cfm?id=85.