About Frank


"Everybody’s Fine" has plenty of chips stacked against it. First, there’s that terrible title. Then there are the schmaltzy trailers and TV spots, which have just another disposable holiday dramedy written all over them. Not to mention, who on earth thought Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Drew Barrymore would make convincing siblings? Thankfully, these potholes are far from thought once this disarming, expectations-exceeding road movie gets cooking.

Following the death of his wife, retiree Frank (a quietly heartbreaking Robert De Niro) wants to reconnect with his grown children Amy (Beckinsale), Robert (Rockwell), Rosie (Barrymore) and David (who’s talked about but whose physical presence is so minute, the actor isn’t even credited). When the kids cancel on a reunion dinner, Frank packs a bag and sets out, primarily by train, to surprise each of them at their respective homes in Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas and New York.

A remake of Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1990 Italian film of the same name, "Everybody’s Fine" — widely and appropriately referred to as De Niro’s "About Schmidt" — is directed with a refreshingly light touch by Kirk Jones ("Waking Ned Devine"), who also penned the simple, often-beautiful screenplay. Just as lovely is the cinematography by Henry Braham, whose keen eye helps to drive home the clever, delightfully executed motif of telephone wire, the communication conductor Frank spent his professional life insulating.

The ironic motif is part of a larger theme involving the secrets family members keep, which, despite good intentions, can end up causing more harm than good. The one major flaw is these long-brewing secrets are revealed in an awkward, oddly patronizing scene that derails the film’s slow-and-steady gentleness.

Had Jones and his crew scrapped the scene, this well-acted and otherwise moving movie would have been mighty fine indeed.

Everybody’s Fine

Three reels out of four
In area theaters tomorrow

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Available Tuesday

One of the most commendable things about the "Harry Potter" saga is its evolving, ever-darkening tone that has never been more evident or assuredly illustrated than in "Half-Blood Prince," the sixth adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster book series.

Directed by David Yates (who also will helm the two-part franchise-capper, "Deathly Hallows"), this is no kiddie flick, but a surprisingly scary, deadly serious and downright gorgeous fantasy epic that, regardless of some slow pacing, should thrill Potterheads and film buffs alike.