How often to we keep the truth from people to avoid talking about the “bad” things or to avoid causing stress or worry to the people in our lives? How often do we do that to the very people we probably should be sharing the “bad” with because they should know and are likely to be in a position and willing to help or, at the very least, provide much-needed support? That’s what this movie is all about! The things we hold back from the ones we love the most and how it impacts our lives!
Robert De Nero heads up a stellar cast as the widowed father of four – two boys and two girls. The characters are: Father, Frank Goode (De Nero); daughters Rosie (Drew Barrymore), Amy (Kate Beckinsale), and son Robert (Sam Rockwell). Frank’s other son, David, is only referred to throughout the movie and appears in a couple brief scenes in Frank’s flashbacks of his children when they were small. Frank labored hard all his life to provide for his family and is immensely proud of the dreams his children were able to accomplish because of his hard work and sacrifice – David, the well-known artist in NYC; Amy, the successful advertising executive who owns her own business and has a loving family in Chicago; Robert, the orchestra conductor and composer in Denver; and Rosie, the accomplished dancer in Las Vegas. His wife was the mainstay of the family. After her death, Frank decides he must take over the duty of holding the family together and watching over his grown children. He plans a family barbeque weekend and excitedly prepares for his children to visit so they can all be around the same table again. Then, one-by-one they cancel on him due to the busy lives they lead hundreds of miles from home.
So, Frank decides, against the advice of his doctor, to go to them! He heads out on a journey across the country on trains and buses – first to NYC to surprise David, then on to Amy in Chicago, then Robert in Denver, and finally Rosie in Las Vegas. Through it all, he discovers that the level of happiness and success that his wife and children conveyed to him over the years is not necessarily the reality of their lives. He finds that the term “Everybody’s fine” has been a comforting tale they all chose to use to avoid worrying and, yes, disappointing him. And the cover-up continues as each one manufactures excuses to not spend time with him so that he doesn’t discover the most recent tragedy plaguing the family in an attempt to not worry him until they have the whole story – at which time, it ends up being too late.
This all too common story of an American family spread across the country, all too busy with their own lives to take time to cherish each other, is told very poignantly. The characters are believable and the acting is exceptional. You very easily get caught up in their lives, their emotions, and their anguish as they uncomfortably lie to their father in an effort to protect him from the truth, as their mother always had.
Robert De Nero is superb as Frank Goode – did you expect any less from this amazing veteran actor? Barrymore and Beckinsale are perfect in their respective roles. The only thing that kept bothering me was Sam Rockwell as Robert – he did a very good job in his role, but I couldn’t help but picture him as the sadistic “Wild Bill” The Green Mile. I had to shake off those thoughts several times to avoid the distraction from his current performance. But, it wasn’t a role spoiler!
The only down side is that the story is a little bit of a “downer” – it is sad to see that the family has grown apart and feels they can’t be honest and confide in the father who did the best he could to provide a good future for them. My heart went out to him and I found myself wanting to just reach out and hug him and keep him from feeling like he is an outsider in his own family. But, as the story unfolds, it proves to be really heartwarming and a testament of the importance of family and the relationships within it!
Don’t worry – I went into a lot of detail, but there were no spoilers — all can be gathered from the trailers (click to watch a really good one) and the build up scenes in the movie. It is what is in between and the eventual outcome that will grab you!
Again, the critics are hating this movie – they think it is too sappy, old-fashioned, and sentimental. They find Frank to be nauseatingly naive about the world around him. I found all this to be the endearing qualities of the movie.
Because of the down side mentioned, I feel I need to take some points off. But, overall, I found the movie to be very touching and real – it grabbed my emotions and made sure I was engaged and involved. I rate it a solid B++. I do recommend you see it, even if only to use it as a reminder to reach out to those you love and trust them with the truth – even if it is painful – they just might be the rock you need to provide an anchor in your life!