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Originally published December 3, 2009 at 3:01 PM | Page modified December 3, 2009 at 5:46 PM

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Movie review

'Everybody's Fine' in this sweet, seasonal drama

A review of the sweet holiday drama "Everybody's Fine," starring Robert De Niro.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'Everybody's Fine,' with Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell. Written and directed by Kirk Jones, based on the 1988 movie "Stanno Tutti Bene" by Giuseppe Tornatore, Tonino Guerra and Massimo De Rita. 95 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language. Several theaters.

Kirk Jones' drama "Everybody's Fine" begins with Robert De Niro vacuuming, and the image is surprisingly reassuring — we get the immediate sense that, in this movie, nobody's going to be murdered by zombies or trampled in some apocalyptic stampede.

Instead, this is a simple and down-to-earth tale of a nice man: the aptly named Frank Goode (De Niro), a recent widower who just wants a reunion with his grown and far-flung children.

When the kids don't show (making various excuses) for a planned family weekend, Frank packs his wheeled suitcase and hits the road, visiting daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsale), a well-off executive with tensions at home; son Robert (Sam Rockwell), a musician whose career isn't quite what Frank was led to believe; and daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore, with her usual slurry charm), a dancer who's got a few secrets of her own.

You will likely figure out most of these secrets well before Frank does, which is a problem with Jones' screenplay. (It's based, loosely, on a 1988 Italian film directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.) And Frank's former occupation — he hung wires for the phone company — is relied upon a little too heavily for metaphor.

But "Everybody's Fine" becomes unexpectedly moving in its poignant, real-life details: the way a father, looking at his child, doesn't see the grown-up but the laughing 6-year-old, or the way a cherished, faded under-the-Christmas-tree photograph speaks far more than any words could, or how the first thing Frank says, upon seeing a young junkie in a train station, is a gentle, "Do your parents know where you are?"

Ultimately, "Everybody's Fine" becomes a holiday movie of rare sweetness; one likely to inspire a few calls home to Mom or Dad. And De Niro, at its center, gives a performance that's perfect in its simplicity. Frank may lack the ruby slippers, but he knows that there's no place like home.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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