Robert De Niro steps into Marcello Mastroianni’s shoes in Everybody’s Fine, an Americanised remake of the 1990 Italian movie Stanno tutti bene, Giuseppe Tornatore’s follow-up film after the international success of Cinema Paradiso.
In the original, Mastroianni played an elderly Sicilian returning to the Italian mainland in search of a family reunion with his seemingly successful offspring. “Stanno tutti bene” – everybody’s fine – is the phrase the children use to fob off their father’s inquiries into their wellbeing. The true state of affairs, though, is very different.
Transplanted to the States by British director Kirk Jones (maker of Waking Ned and Nanny McPhee), the remake finds De Niro as a retired and widowed blue-collar dad who sets off on a transcontinental road trip to pay surprise visits on his four grown-up children.
Ignoring his doctor’s warnings about his dodgy ticker, De Niro’s Frank Goode criss-crosses the country by Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains to call in on artist son David (Austin Lysy) in New York, advertising executive Amy (Kate Beckinsale) in Chicago, musician Robert (Sam Rockwell) in Denver and dancer Rosie (Drew Barrymore) in Las Vegas.
At every step of the way, Frank’s children try to shield him from the messy reality of their lives, but gradually his eyes are opened.
It’s a pleasure to see De Niro in a gentler role for a change, and his performance as Frank is appealing and touching. Overall, however, Jones’s efforts to re-tool the Italian original for an American audience prove disappointing. The comedy is broader, the dramatic crises have been sweetened and the ending has an uplift that was entirely missing from the original.
On general release from 26th February.