I was in a great mood on Tuesday afternoon. I slept in a little bit. OK, a lot. I opened my bedroom curtains to the shining sun and clear blue skies. I drank my morning coffee while listening to early Joe Cocker and then I went out and ran five miles. I returned home to a long, luxurious shower and threw on a t-shirt and jeans to get to a screening of 'Everybody's Fine'. The day was perfect.

As I loathe traffic, I left my apartment early to make sure that I didn't have to worry about being late, since the screening was in Beverly Hills and I live on the more eastern side of LA in Los Feliz. I put an Aimee Mann CD into my car's sound system, rolled down the windows and relaxed as I drove, still basking in my good and lighthearted mood.

I was in a great mood on Tuesday afternoon. I slept in a little bit. OK, a lot. I opened my bedroom curtains to the shining sun and clear blue skies. I drank my morning coffee while listening to early Joe Cocker and then I went out and ran five miles. I returned home to a long, luxurious shower and threw on a t-shirt and jeans to get to a screening of 'Everybody's Fine'. The day was perfect.

As I loathe traffic, I left my apartment early to make sure that I didn't have to worry about being late, since the screening was in Beverly Hills and I live on the more eastern side of LA in Los Feliz. I put an Aimee Mann CD into my car's sound system, rolled down the windows and relaxed as I drove, still basking in my good and lighthearted mood.

I arrived at the screening half an hour early, so I sat in the lobby waiting for the film to start. Housed within the building is a doctor's office where there was a flurry of activity going in and out of its door. Left with too much time on my hands and cursed with an over-active brain, I began to wonder if I had a serious illness which I did not know about. Thankfully, before I could diagnose myself with something painful and fatal, the publicist arrived to let me into the screening room.

I was about to enter the room to find a seat when an employee said that I had to get rid of my bottle of 7-Up. I told him that I tend to cough in air conditioned movie theatres and that I needed liquid for my throat. He said that only bottled water was acceptable. I asked him why I couldn't bring in my 7-Up and he just kept emphasizing that only water is allowed in the theatre. He said I could dump out my 7-Up and replace it with water in the bathroom. So, clearly, the bottle already being open was not the issue and he wasn't worried that I was going to blow up the place. And, since there was no water to be bought on-site, he wasn't trying to make money off of me.



What, exactly, was the issue? Control? Was he a secret Sprite sales rep? The sweet publicist just shrugged her shoulders and said she thought that perhaps water was the safest beverage choice in case it spilled. 7-Up is as clear as water, and I suppose I could have lied, but I dumped my 7-Up and replaced it with water in the bathroom. Of course, when I went into the theatre, the stern employee didn't check to see if I had done so. Immediately, I envisioned dumping it over his head to prove I replaced my carbonated, lime tinged beverage with flat, boring tap water (which, in LA, is absolutely disgusting).

As I was the first person to arrive at the screening, I secured one of the four big cushy arm chairs at the back of the room. I sat next to candy-filled glass jars. So, you can't bring a 7-Up into the theatre, but you can have sticky and gooey chocolates. Whatever. Immediately, I began to cough due to the air conditioning. I assured the journalist sitting next to me that I don't have H1N1 and that my cough was due to the air conditioning. She thanked me for my consideration. I am worried about being knifed by someone who thinks I have the flu. Everyone is so paranoid about it right now, it has led to another epidemic - Whine Flu.

I reclined in my lovely chair and waited for the film to start. I rarely watch trailers, film commercials or read anything about films before I see them. I like to go in blind. I was excited to see this film. With its superb cast - Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale - I was already poised to love the film. I had seen the promotional poster which shows everybody smiling broadly. They seemed to be more than fine. They seemed happy. I envisioned the story to be a heartwarming, easy and sweet Christmas movie. However, three quarters of the way into the film, I was crying so hard that I was certain my black eye make-up was running down my face making me look like a raccoon or Helena Bonham Carter in 'Fight Club'.

Based upon the Italian film, Academy Award winner Giuseppe Tornatore's 'Stanno Tutti Bene' (1990), 'Everybody's Fine' is about family dynamics, growing up, and the lies we tell our families in an attempt to protect them. It's about (mis)communicating, expectations and all that goes so horribly off-course as we get older, and our lives become more complicated than we could ever conceive of when we are growing up.

Robert De Niro is Frank Goode, a 60-year-old recent retiree in upstate New York, who, after his wife dies, decides that he never spent enough time with his four grown-up children, after spending a lifetime working hard to ensure a good life for them. With health problems preventing him from flying, he decides to embark on a trip across the country, via bus and train, to visit each of his children, who all live in different states. He intends to surprise his children and celebrate their lives with them. After all, his illustrious children are all incredibly successful. He drove them hard and raised them to be. That has to be a formula for happiness, right?

There is David (Austin Lysy), the artist in New York, Robert (Sam Rockwell), the orchestral conductor in Denver, Rosie (Drew Barrymore) a dancer in a huge Las Vegas show, and Amy (Kate Beckinsale), a top advertising executive in Chicago. Frank packs up his medication and a travel bag and heads out to visit David first. But he can't find him. He leaves a note for David beneath his apartment door and moves on to visit Robert. Is he, in fact, conducting an orchestra or conducting a lie? After Robert comes Amy. She is brilliant and has a son and loving husband. Or, are her clever advertising skills being used on her father, too? Lastly, there is Rosie. Is her dancing career what it seems to be or is she dancing around issues instead? And, where is David? Why is everyone artfully dodging questions about the artist?



No visit is what Frank expected. It seems his children's lives are not exactly what they seem and it appears to Frank as if they are all concealing something from him. When you push your children to be perfect, even when it's done out of love, it's not surprising that they might begin to hide the less-than-perfect details of their lives (and a lot more). The song which recurred in my mind as I watched the film was Harry Chapin's 'Cat's in the Cradle'.

Robert De Niro plays the part of the concerned, but deep-down loving father fairly adeptly. Both Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale put in good and believable performances, but Drew Barrymore is the one who seems to breathe life, charm and heart into the film. There was something about the film's pacing which felt like it was slightly flat-lining along until she enters the picture (pardon the pun). Though her performance picks up the film's energy, the mood dips really far down.

I had so many tears flowing down my cheeks that I wondered if the screening employee would be mad at me for spilling my saline everywhere. As soon as the credits rolled, I ran out of the theatre so nobody would see that I couldn't stop crying. But, I was trapped in an elevator with six other journalists who found me crying. One of them, referring to the film said, "Isn't there enough depression in the world without adding this film to it?"

I see it differently, though. There is nothing wrong with a film eliciting a good cry and making me think of my family and all the things we've been through together - both the good, the bad and the incredibly difficult. Though my previous gung-ho mood of the day may have been shot down, I felt strangely good, albeit in a different way. I felt opened up to my deepest core and overcome with a beautiful vulnerability.

As soon as I returned home, I felt like calling my whole family to tell them I love them. But, with the time difference between here and Toronto, I didn't think my parents would appreciate a random phone call from their daughter at 1am. Thankfully, one of my older brothers lives in California, so I gave him a call.

If you are looking for a simple Christmas movie that doesn't take you on an emotional roller coaster, then I wouldn't recommend this film. But, if you are looking for something deeply human and for some realism instead of the typical holiday, feel-good cinematic offerings, I'd say to go and spend some time with the Goode family.

Remember to bring tissue. Like, a lot of tissue. Like, hit Costco before you go to the theatre.