This week at the movies, we’ve got a fractured family (Everybody’s Fine, starring Robert De Niro and Drew Barrymore); a sibling rivalry (Brothers, starring Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal); an inside job (Armored, starring Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne); and vampire hilarity (Transylmania, starring Patrick Cavanaugh and James DeBello). What do the critics have to say?
Robert De Niro has an intensity and presence that shines through even when he’s not playing Travis Bickle/Jake La Motta types. And critics say his measured performance is easily the best thing about Everybody’s Fine, a dramedy that too often veers into schmaltz. De Niro stars as a widowed middle-aged man who is attempting to mend fences with his unhappy children; he takes a cross-country trip to visit each of his brood, with mixed results. The pundits say Everybody’s Fine has some touching moments, and De Niro works hard to hold the whole thing together, but too often the movie becomes overly sentimental, and the supporting players aren’t given three-dimensional characters to play.
Sometimes a film contains such good acting that one is willing to overlook its faults. One example might be Jim Sheridan‘s Brothers, a film critics say often works despite being frequently overwrought. A remake of Susanne Bier‘s Certified Fresh 2005 drama, Brothers stars Tobey Maguire as Sam, a Marine who’s presumed lost on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, on the home front, Sam’s wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) become closer than ever — and their relationship wreaks havoc on the family when it turns out Sam is still alive. The pundits say Brothers contains strong performances from the three leads and has moments of real power, but doesn’t quite cohere into a fully satisfying whole, and often sinks into melodrama and heavy-handedness. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Portman’s best-reviewed films.
Also opening this week in limited release: