Frank Goode (Robert De Niro) never connected with his children. His wife handled those duties, dealt with the problems, while the kids ensured their father assumed all was okay. With Frank’s wife passing away, he must take a head-on approach to their problems, and they’re numerous.
His connection idea is all a surprise. His cross-country trip to visit his scattered kin is unexpected for his four children, disallowing them a chance to hide their often dim livelihoods. The kids exist more for show when facing their now lone parent, but Frank is observant. He catches them at their weakest, amassing information in their homes and then bringing it to a head after a medical emergency.
The key to Everybody’s Fine is purely De Niro who expertly crafts a lonely senior, lost without anyone in his home. It’s a collection of mannerisms, dialogue choices, and repressed feelings that draw out Frank for the viewer. He often lives in the past, sticking to ancient answering machines, using payphones, and celebrating his work on the infrastructure of America, something few even use. His kids, like most, have pushed into the realm of cell phones; he sticks with landlines as if to appreciate his work.
This De Niro-leading drama knows when to swell the violins, as it’s no stranger to enforcing drama. At times, the entire emotional facade will collapse under some contrivances or forced plot devices. A mugging in a subway station is particularly heavy handed in searching for critical developments, and Frank’s daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore) has background issues that are left to the audience to decipher minus clarity.
Clumsily constructed as it might be, Everybody’s Fine does deliver a crafted character worth caring for. Given the circumstances, it might even be unavoidable . Frank is likeable and endearing on screen, produced by an actor who will likely never leave his prime. The kids are almost ancillary elements, brought in for variation on Frank’s coast-to-coast wandering. They come across as snippets, where pieces need fitted in sort of a routine fashion as to deliver information expediently. Chances for a connection with the audience are too limited, so the film shifts itself back onto Frank’s shoulders. It’s a wise choice.
Everybody’s Fine doesn’t start poor. Color timing leans bright with a yellow shift that creates an endearing, rich palette as Frank spends some time in the grocery or outside in his yard. Definition seems precise, you can read labels on products, and definition has a pleasing quality.
Then, black happens. Shot with the Panavision Genesis, Everybody’s Fine doesn’t seem to have a clue what to do with blacks. No, there’s no crush and no loss of shadow detail. It’s noise: unbearable, swarming, heavy, thick noise. It can be evident on one element of the screen, say a black dress worn by Kate Beckinsale, or a daylight shot where a darkened doorway is lost to blotchy patches.
It’s quite unbearable to watch, and impedes important scenes. The focus shifts from the performances and dialogue to the movement poorly hidden by the darkness. This isn’t just a few scenes so much as it’s almost all of them. It appears raw, as if the intermediate phase completely missed these elements or the disc itself is somehow defective. As the very least, compression is well handled with a great bitrate that doesn’t present any added complications.
Even what isn’t taken over by digital blotches is rarely impressive. Close-ups of the female cast have a way of appearing plastic, fine detail goes wandering, and aliasing is allowed to invoke its wrath on the images. One scene after another has trouble resolving something as simple as a chair back, or maybe a window blind in the background. Any camera movement will breakdown the visuals and mar an already struggling presentation. Releasing in late 2009 – meaning production could have commenced in 2008 – there’s still no apparent excuse for how sloppily handled this is. Everybody’s Fine looks as if it were shot back in the earliest days of digital Hollywood cinematography.
With minimal push for audio dominance, Everybody’s Fine would have sufficed with a general helping of ambiance and calling it a day. For the most part, that’s what it does, but it makes quite a deal about where scenes are placed. An open, certainly acoustic orchestra in practice has a dazzling effect in the stereos and surrounds. The entire hall opens up and feels huge, while Frank slams his suitcase down some steps to equal effect.
Bustling train stations are lively, airports active, and city streets expansive as they open up (given the chance). Even the lowly grocery has a way to push the elevator music into the rears for effect, and a late film thunderstorm is outstanding in its bass. The rain effect is just the topping. Great mixing job here.
Seven deleted/extended scenes are to the point for 12-minutes, all generally needless information. Paul McCartney handled duties for the closing credits music, and a brief featurette details that work, Lionsgate pulls out some dramatic trailers and then sends this disc to distribution.
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