Everybody’s Fine is not your typical cheery, laugh-a-minute holiday movie. Instead, the film touches on love, loss, disappointment, and reconciliation. It feels a lot like real life and is almost guaranteed to make you cry, but somehow it’s heartening to know that other families have the same communication issues and glitches as the rest of us.
Eight months after the death of his wife, Frank Goode (Robert DeNiro) begins to realize that he no longer really has a family. Of course he’s still the father of four grown children, but there seems to be nothing connecting them all together. His wife truly was the glue, and he’s going to have to make a concerted effort if he wants to forge a new relationship with his kids. The trouble is that they’re so unaccustomed to communicating with him that it’s far easier to avoid him.
After all four of his children fail to return home for a visit, Frank decides to hit the road and visit them individually. He’s suffering from lung disease due to exposure to chemicals at work, and flying is out of the question. He heads out the door one suitcase in tow and makes his way to New York via buses and trains, only to find that his first child is nowhere to be found. He slides a letter under his son’s door, then moves on to visit his daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsale) in Chicago, his son Robert (Sam Rockwell) in Denver, and his daughter Amy (Drew Barrymore) in Vegas.
He’s met with a strangely chilly reception from each child, and though it’s clear that they love him, they obviously don’t know what to do with him. Not only are they trying to cover for their missing brother (hence the weirdness in New York), but they all have their own failures and inadequacies to cover…or so they think. They used to pour their hearts out to their mother, but somehow it’s so much easier to allow their idealistic father to believe that everybody’s fine and figure things out for themselves. Frank is just as bad, never letting on how serious his medical condition is or how difficult he finds life as a widower. It comes as no surprise when this little adventure ends in disaster.
The entire journey is hastily-planned and poorly-executed, clearly organized by someone who is used to being married and working as part of a team. He simply isn’t accustomed to functioning alone. He needs someone to point out that his suitcase has a hidden handle and rollers, and he needs someone to tell him, “No Frank, that’s a really bad idea.” In short, he needs a wife. Barring that, he could definitely use more input and support from his children. As Frank, DeNiro delivers one of his most moving performances in years, and if nothing else, the movie offers up a compelling character study.
Thankfully the Goodes do get it together in the end, offering hope to us all that those awkward but potentially rewarding relationships in our lives can be rectified. It may take effort, time, and courage to build a better bond, but the end result is well worth it.
The DVD release includes deleted and extended scenes, plus a making-of Paul McCartney’s theme song “(I Want To) Come Home”.