Everybody’s Fine (Kirk Jones, 2009): USA

Reviewed by Candice Field. Viewed at the AFI Film Festival 2009.

Everybody’s Fine, is undoubtedly writer/director Kirk Jones best work to date. The film chronicles a widower and father of four (played by Robert De Niro) as he sets out on an impromptu road trip in hopes of reconnecting with his children. One by one, De Niro discovers how little he really knows about his children’s lives. As this heart wrenching tale unfolds on screen we are reminded of the importance of family, honesty, and above all thats its never to late for second chances. Jones manages to evoke a surprisingly admirable performance out of each and every actor, no matter how big or small the role. With this film Jones proves he’s capable of commanding even the most intimidating of casts, boasting legendary actors like Robert De Niro. Through their memorable performances as De Niro’s children, Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, and Kate Beckinsale remind us all why their considered some of Hollywood’s top dogs. The film reminds us that life can be tragic and and funny as hell all at the same time.

The director added depth and emotion to the film with his decision to introduce each one of the now full grown children with a flashback portraying them through their father’s eyes, as little kids. In a way this decision was crucial to the effectiveness of the film. It is this kind of avant garde decision that sets this film apart from the kind of typical, run of the mill, feel-good type film we’re used to seeing around the holidays. The use of lighting, camera angle, and movement in the film is also rather impressive. Jones takes full advantage of panning, tilting, and tracking throughout the picture. Every element of the film seems to add some kind of beneficial element into play. Despite having neglected his responsibilities as a father (to some extent) the audience can’t help but fall in love with De Niro’s painfully hopeful character. As he gets further along on his journey, De Niro’s character realizes that his children’s lives are not as picture-perfect as he believed them to be. However, after a few scene stealing performances from the supporting cast, the audience is left with the feeling that love can truly conquer all no matter what kind of obstacles stand in the way. Another unexpected perk of what is destined to be a classic film that changes are perception of what truly constitutes a family, is an original song written and performed by Paul McCartney specifically for the film. As previously mentioned the director’s manipulation of lighting, camera angle, and movement throughout the film (mainly during flashback sequences) make it a cinematic masterpiece. De Niro carries the heavy weight of the film with considerable ease and paves the way for the rest of the cast. The director’s unceasing ability to cut from a fairly simple scene to a more elaborate and complex one, allows for significant character development and range. Kirk Jones succeeds in depicting a largely dysfunctional family that the audience can’t help but root for. As the film comes to an end, Jones convinces the audience that in fact, everybody’s fine.

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