A widower trying to reconnect with his children is a potent topic for a movie. Or at least it was when Jack Nicholson had a go at it in Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt. Robert De Niro’s take is to play it glum and glummer, as he glowers throughthis Americanized version of Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1990 Italian original.
De Niro, in the role originated by a masterful Marcello Mastroianni, never really gets under the thick skin of Frank Goode, newly retired from a workaholic career at a wire factory. Frank just doesn’t get why his four neglected children, now grown, aren’t eager to fit him into their lives, even when he travels around the country to pay a visit.
Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, as three of the Goode kids, are good actors sucked down in the plot’s sentimental quicksand. I won’t tell you about the fourth child because, well, I bet you can guess. No trite, tear-jerking cliché goes undrooled in the script by director Kirk Jones, who won awards for his Absolut vodka TV ads. I don’t see any awards coming the way of Everybody’s Fine. I, for one, am not fine about it.