Countdown to Claus: Everybody’s Fine (2009)

Sometimes you just wanna give these old actors a hug.

Frank (Robert De Niro) just lost his wife, and without their mother by his side, Frank’s grown children aren’t compelled to visit for the holidays. So he hits the road to visit them — collecting various revelations and learning about himself along the way.

Back in the winter of ’09 when this flick first came out, I had no intentions of seeing it whatsoever. The trailer was pretty corny, that poster is terribly photo-shopped (what the hell happened to De Niro’s face?), and just an overall feeling of I knew exactly what I was going to get myself into. However, it’s always awesome to be blind-sided.

Even though this is apart of my whole Countdown to Claus meme, this is still not a Christmas film. It’s actually a huge downer that does have some lighter humorous moments, but this tone is something I was not expecting from this flick. However, it’s actually pretty good to get a Christmas film to come around the season to be jolly, and not just be the same old happy-sappy bull crap we see for two hours every year.

This is a very simple movie with a very simple story about a father trying to reconnect with his kiddies while also trying to figure out just where the hell he went wrong with this whole fathering-business. This is where the film succeeds in the most because it’s a very universal subject that almost any person can relate to because whether or not you knew your dad, still keep in touch with your dad, or are a dad yourself, you can still see yourself in any one of these characters, which gives you a total better understanding of what the film is actually trying to say. There are some sweet and gentle moments where they handle the emotions in this film well, and it did feel truthful, if somewhat obvious.

My main problem with this film is the fact that these kids are assholes. First of all, all they ever do is lie to their dad about the smallest, most random, and gayest things I have ever heard somebody lie to their parents about. Secondly, when the kids do end up telling their daddy why it is that they keep all of these secrets away from him, it doesn’t all match up and just seems forced to give these characters more room to breath for development. Personally, I felt bad for Frank cause this guy wanted to see his kids for Christmas altogether, but they lied and said they have certain things to do, when in reality, they just don’t want to be embarrassed or some dumb shit like that.

Another problem I had with this film was that some of the scenes here seemed a little misplaced and forced. There was one scene where Frank gives this junkie money, and the junkie goes crazy at him. Basically the scene was trying to show you how good of a man Frank was even though this seemed totally out-of-place. Not because Frank was a bad guy or anything, it’s just that I have a feeling that he’s not stupid and knows what happens when you give those jerk-offs moolah and he’s not a saint-like dude in the first place anyway.

The next weird scene was where Frank had his kids fess up about all of the lies they have told him but it’s total in a dream-like sequence and the kids are actually played by kids. I don’t know why they couldn’t just show Frank talking to them in real-life and making them feel like the pieces of shits that they are but for some odd reason, they decided to go with some weird way of showing getting on with this plot.

Robert De Niro does so much shit every now and then, that is always good to see him do something that’s actually believable. As Frank, De Niro is subtle, charming, and just overall a pleasant dude that has his obvious problems with being a father to his kids and actually accepting the fact that his kids were pushed away from him, because of himself. There are some real moments of emotional truth and De Niro handles it perfectly well and I think he did the same with the whole film in general.

As for the rest of the cast, they all try their hardest but these characters are already such assholes and one-dimensional that it’s almost too hard to really like them. Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and the always reliable Sam Rockwell are OK, but their scenes with De Niro always end up being another spot-light for De Niro to show off his veteran skills.

Consensus: It’s definitely not a totally happy film and features one-dimensional characters, but Everybody’s Fine features a great central performance from De Niro and a simple story, that has real truth to it and works for anybody who is watching this flick.



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