None of the sobs that shook the Charles Theatre last year during the record-breaking run of "Cinema Paradiso" were mine. I thought that tear-jerker of a movie, with its clumsily told and over-long narrative, was filled with every cliche of Italian filmmaking.
I dislike Giuseppe Tornatore's "Everybody's Fine," which opens today at the Charles, even more than his "Cinema Paradiso," and this time I think I'll have some company.
Matteo Scuro (the great Marcello Mastroianni in a role that makes him look absurd behind fishbowl-thick eyeglasses) leaves Sicily to pay unannounced visits to his five grown children on the mainland. Who could believe that visits to Naples, Rome, Florence, Milan and Turin could be boring? See this movie and you will.
Alvaro, the son in Naples, isn't home and the rest of the film is about Matteo's attempt to make his other children tell him where Alvaro is. Not only are they hiding stuff about their brother, they have their own secrets.
The daughter in Florence (Valeria Cavali), whom Matteo believes to be a famous actress, is an over-the-hill underwear model; the important politician in Rome (Marino Cenna) is a secretary for a minor Communist Party functionary; the great musician in Milan (Roberto Nobile) is a free-lance timpanist who scramblesfrom job to job, and so on. These stories -- all five of them -- come at us with numbing regularity.
Worse yet are some of Tornatore's narrative tricks. There's the way that Matteo drags out the same tattered photograph of his children every time he meets strangers; the fact that whenever Matteo sees one of his adult children for the first time in the film, he sees them as they were when they were young; and the way that Tornatore stops the frame every time Matteo reaches his missing son's telephone answering machine.
Like Fellini, Tornatore's fond of flashbacks that take place on beaches. But Fellini -- at his best -- uses such flashbacks to illuminate character and plot; Tornatore's tell us only that Matteo is worried about his children. (For this we had to go all the way to the beach?) The real reason for the flashbacks is to persuade us that we're seeing a classier movie than we are in fact seeing.
In the end, one just doesn't care about Matteo -- he's not only a boor but, as it turns out, he really wasn't a very good father. If
"Everybody's Fine" were as effective, if meretricious, a film as "Cinema Paradiso," it would make you want to rush home and call Dad. But fathers like Matteo, and films like "Everybody's Fine," make you want to stay home and unplug the phone.
Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Valeria Cavali, Roberto Nobile and Marino Cenna.
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.
Released by Miramax.