Kirk Jones’s remake of 1990 Italian drama Stanno Tutti Bene received a less-than-enthusiastic response from some critics when it was released last year, but I found it an enjoyable, involving and at times moving experience, with a beautifully restrained performance at its core from one of the industry’s best actors.
Robert De Niro plays widower Frank, a man who fears he is losing touch with his grown-up children. Amy is a high-flying advertising executive (Kate Beckinsale), Robert works in an orchestra and Rosie is a stage-performer in Las Vegas. But it is his son David about whom he worries the most. David is an artist living in New York, but has stopped returning his father’s calls. So when they all cancel on him at the last moment (just when he’s putting together a brand new barbecue for their family get-together) he decides to pay each of them a visit. He finds that everybody is far from fine. Some of the problems his children are living with are subtly depicted (Amy acts strangely around her partner and Rosie isn’t being entirely truthful about her private life) and some are not so subtle (the empty apartment in New York where David should live and his son’s less-than-exciting orchestral career). All of these issues are played out well by the supporting cast, giving way to some touching father-to-child moments when Frank visits them, travelling from state to state to track them down.
It is shame that it doesn’t all work. There is a rather unconvincing scene where Frank imagines he is talking to his kids when they are all children, asking why they all lie to him and don’t share their problems. It’s a well-meant moment that isn’t wholly successful, and jolts with the smoothly melancholic tone the film has set up from the start. There is also some cliché plundering when it comes to the ‘issues’ his children are dealing with.
There is of course the argument of “why bother remaking the film, just because it’s in another language?”. I usually condemn Hollywood when they rehash a foreign classic just so people can avoid subtitles, but in this case I feel the transition works. This is a film about both cultural and family values so it is interesting to see it rewritten for another country. It has also been twenty years since the original — a respectful amount of time to let pass before setting about to make an English version.
Everybody’s Fine is unlikely to be remembered as one of De Niro’s career bests, but it’s still a commendable and memorable addition to his accomplished CV.
Everybody’s Fine (2009), directed by Kirk Jones, is available on DVD from Lionsgate, certificate 12.