Sunday, June 12, 2016

DADDIE DEAREST



(currently playing on Amazon Prime)

Earth to Hollywood! EVERYBODY'S FINE is based on a very dated Italian movie, directed by a British guy and starring actors who obviously haven't left their gated compounds in FOREVER! No wonder Hollywood and all the elites are terrified of free elections and the voter's revolt. They make no bones about showing everyone in the USA as shallow, screwed up, failing, drinking, overweight and sexually confused. They don't think we peons out here in flyover country ever have a happy day.

Frank Goode, (get it? He wants to be frank, and his name is good. So he's frankly a good guy. Don't barf yet, it gets better.), is the lonely Dad of a family of four grown children who has just lost his wife of many years.

Won't even mention the weird lack of modern technology for a 2009 movie, no cell phones, travel by bus and train, and no prescription refills in other cities, because if the story and performances worked, you'd forgive them everything.

I really wanted to at least like this movie. Family drama is a big favorite of mine. But, come on, old Hollywood B melodramas had more depth and realism than this movie. The big sin of the dad played by Robert De Niro, who, as always, eats the scenery, (He can't help it, but it's all wrong for this role.) is that he pushed the kids when they were young instead of accepting them for what they were, which his now deceased wife did. So she knew they were screwed up and didn't tell him. Now, eight months after her death, barely time to start grieving a wife of a long time marriage, he finds out the awful truth.

It is awful, because his youngest son has OD'd on drugs in Mexico and died. This is the son who receives the ultimate Hollywood accolade; he's described by a pretty young thing as "really special." Ahhhh. Well, then his death really is a loss. We can be sure that even if he was a reckless, freeloading ne'er do well playboy, he was special.

But, just so we know, his spirit appears to Dad when he's in the hospital with a heart attack to tell him it's not his fault that this "special" guy got all messed up on drugs. Well, for Pete's sake, if this is a family Gosh Darn drama, it's gotta be somebody's fault. So it's gotta be Dad's fault because he pushed the kids. And if that Dad is played by powerfully aggressive, take no prisoners actor De Niro, you have a sneaking suspicion that when this dad pushed, it verged on brutal. But no, we're just supposed to believe he's a puzzled care bear who was always too busy making his blue collar living to understand. What this movie wants you to understand is that it was wrong for Dad to expect his kids to try to be happily married, raise normal kids, and contribute to society in some small way. He pushed them to achieve, don't you see?

There is a particularly maudlin and unpleasant scene of Dad's vision when he is having his heart attack. In the vision, he's his current age, but the kids are kids again. However, he's really not the dad anybody would want. The worst is when his eight year old son smart talks him, and he makes a big issue about showing respect. When a kid that young and tender stands up to you in their silly way, it shows they trust that you won't smack them down and that they are developing some moxie. Respect is such a hard thing to earn from your kids, and De Niro lost all my respect when he got all testy and, threatened by his eight year old child, verbally smacked him down. Ugly.

However, the ending is perfect for this movie. Dad narrates to himself that "everybody is making his and her way in the world, and everybody is fine". (Except for the dead kid, you know, the one who dad smacked down for not showing respect and who is "really special", but who's too nice to blame dad for his ruined life.) Frankly, Frank Goode as a father is reminds me of Joan Crawford as Mommie Dearest. But the whole family gets together in Elmira, New York for Christmas. Upstate New York, where winter is snowier than friggin Moscow and where global warming would be proof of a merciful God. There, Dad cooks the Christmas turkey, and boy is this movie ever a prize turkey.




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