Normally I would be the first to call out a worn out family values film full of cliches and predictable scenarios, which is just what critics did to Kirk Jones' holiday family tearjerker. "Everybody's Fine" goes beyond the traditional family reunion movie, mostly thanks to Robert De Niro's memorable performance as Frank Goode, a widowed father of four. His children, played by Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Austin Lysy, don't add as much substance to the film as De Niro, but certainly don't take away from the emotional intensity.
As Frank Goode prepares himself for the holiday season, excited to finally bring the whole family together, he receives the saddening phone calls from his sons and daughters with the usual excuses of why they won't be coming home this Christmas. Determined to reverse the ongoing avoidance, Frank sets out on a cross country trip to check up on all of them on his own, despite his doctor's advice.
What follows is a bit more depressing and gloomy than one might expect from this genre of film. De Niro's characterization and ability to suck the audience through every subtle facial expression remains constant throughout the film, right up to the conclusion.
Jones' directing style and use of symbolism is on point and terribly effective. Every metaphor has significant meaning and was well thought out. Without giving too much away, I will say that one symbol in particular was cleverly integrated during the course of the movie, and hits your hard towards the conclusion, right when you're praying for a joke to lighten the mood before you soak your shirt. By the end of the movie I found myself choking up to the point of bawling in the middle of the theater.
After watching the movie, and drying out my eyes, I was eager to see what the other critics had to say about this touching family portrait. I was appalled and shocked to see such poorly thought out reviews. I felt as if the critics didn't even bother to watch the movie, or must have saw something completely different. So please, if you even considered watching this one, don't hesitate because of some poor man who thought that by predicting the end of a movie he can take away all other substance from it. This is not an unpredictable film, but it is emotionally powerful and effective. If you judge a movie by how well it plays with your emotions, then this should be at the top of your "must see" list.
Don't let the critics get to you on this one, you won't regret it!
The last time I cried at a movie was after the first fifteen minutes of Disney Pixar's "Up." Wow... Now that was intense.