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.
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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.