Making the Grades
Anticipating a weekend reunion with his busy adult children, Frank (Robert De Niro) has spent days getting ready for their arrival. And it is understandable that he is disappointed when one by one they all call to cancel. So rather than kick around the house by himself, the recent widower decides to pack his bags and give his kids an impromptu visit instead.
Buying a train ticket for New York City, Frank heads out on a cross-country trip to see his son David. However when he arrives at the seedy apartment on a quiet street, no one is home. After a disappointing night spent in a 24-hour diner with a handful of other lonely, old men, Frank makes one last attempt to find his son at before catching a bus to his daughter’s house in another state.
Unfortunately Amy (Kate Beckinsale), her husband (Damian Young) and their son (Lucian Maisel) don’t give Frank quite the welcome he was hoping for. In fact he has only one night with them (an evening in which he lets out a blue streak of profanities while playing golf with his grandson) before they put him back on the road to Robert’s (Sam Rockwell) place. That meeting is strained as well and by the time Frank turns up in Las Vegas to see his youngest daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore), he knows he isn’t getting a straight answer from any of his offspring. He also regrettably realizes it was his deceased wife who held them all together with her knack for listening.
Fortunately, despite the trunk load of issues this group faces, Everybody’s Fine doesn’t disintegrate into the highly dysfunctional holiday comedy that has become so common during the last few years. This family’s biggest problem, aside from the recent death of their mother, is their lack of communication and the barrier it poses to supportive parent/child relations.
The biggest surprise to viewers may be the serious themes of the storyline, including illegal drug abuse, alternative lifestyles, and facing disappointments. (All the jokes are shown in the trailer, which may make the movie seem lighter than it actually is.) After a lifetime of working in a blue-collar job to support his children and their dreams, Frank is faced with the fact that he hardly knows the people they have grown to be. And unfortunately, they carefully choose what they will let him know about their lives.
While the film presents a realistic conclusion, it isn’t the sappy, sentimental fluff where characters uncharacteristically break into song and dance. In fact, this ending is more of a beginning—the starting of new family relationships where, eventually, everybody will be fine.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Everybody’s Fine.
How does Frank’s expectations for his children contribute to their reluctance to tell him about their present lives?How can parents find the balance between pushing their children to succeed and having unrealistic goals for them?
Although Frank wants to know the truth about his children, how does he react when he gets some hard news about his son? How does the crisis unite this group? How can family members support one another during these types of difficulties?
How can the rapid pace of life, the dependence on technology devices and distance contribute to deteriorating family relations? How can technology be used to build relationships? Do you think actual face-to-face time is important for strengthening family ties?