Despite an impressive ensemble cast, writer/director Kirk Jones' 2009 family drama Everybody's Fine falls pretty flat -- it's heartbreaking during brief transitional moments where Robert De Niro is probably improving, but chintzy and fake whenever the script actually calls for real drama. Oddly enough, much of the story is likely supposed to ring false -- as De Niro plays a recently widowed father traveling across the country to visit his grown children, who are each obviously omitting as-yet-unspecified info about their lives to him during his stay. The only problem is that the movie feels even phonier when the truth comes out.
It's supposed to have been eight months since De Niro's character, Frank, lost his wife to illness. When each of his thirtysomething kids (Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Drew Barrymore) calls up and says they won't be able to make it down for the group visit they've been planning, he decides to hop on a Greyhound bus and surprise each of them in their home cities. Each one seems dodgy and guarded, and doesn't know what to say to their dad since their mom is no longer around to decide what level of bad news he can handle. But, of course, things eventually come to a head, and he figures out everybody's secrets.
De Niro gives a solid, understated performance as a working-class father who has a lot of love, but not a lot of words, for his children. And the supporting cast do alright for themselves -- they just can't overcome a weak script, where each plot development feels hokey and obvious, even for such unabashedly middle-brow fare.