First Hit: A very slow lifeless film with very little to say.
The premise of this film is that a dad, who is a recent widower, expects his children to come home for a holiday. One by one they tell him they cannot make it for some reason or another, so he decides to go visit each of them unannounced.
Although this is an interesting premise, this film really fails to deeply explore the reasons why his children don’t tell him the truth of their lives. It fails to explore family dynamics.
Robert De Niro plays Frank Goode (the dad) who is sick with a disease he picked up from his job of putting plastic coating on telephone wires. Every once in a while, when the children talk to each on the phone, the audience is treated to pictures of these plastic coated telephone wires while we hear slightly garbled dialogs of the conversations.
This is supposed to be symbolic about the distance between the children and the dad while also expressing the calls wouldn't have happened without his work. He starts his trip by visiting his oldest son who lives in New York. He gets there and he isn't home. He waits a day or so but gives up, slips an envelope under the door and leaves. We find out later that this son has a drug problem and is in Mexico.
The next stop is to visit the oldest daughter Amy (played by Kate Beckinsale). She is a smart high-powered advertising executive but appears to be very distant from her husband and child. Frank suggests to her that he'd like to stay there a couple of days, but Amy rushes him out of the house on the pretext she is busy but she is really headed to Mexico to try to find her older brother.
The next visit is to second son Robert (played by Sam Rockwell) who has somehow given his father the impression he is a conductor in an orchestra when in fact he plays the drums in an orchestra. Frank is clearly disappointed that he didn’t know this.
Then he visits his youngest daughter Rosie (played by Drew Barrymore) who is outgoing and attempts to tell her father why the children don’t tell him all of what is going on in their lives. However, at each reason, Frank fires back his justification.
The fact of the matter is that Frank didn’t and doesn’t listen to the truth only to what he really wants to hear.
De Niro, doesn’t have the feel for this part. He portrays very little depth on the screen and doesn’t seem very engaged to this film. Beckinsale is adequate as an ad executive but the role has little going for it. Rockwell gets a little more meat in his lines and does bring some friction and interest to the interchange between him and De Niro. Lastly Barrymore is good at bringing some sunshine and truth into this little story. I don’t think the writing level mined the depths of family dynamics which would have propelled this story into an interesting film.
Overall: This was a tired attempt to bring forth how siblings find it difficult to communicate their truth to their father.