WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

Frank’s doing fine. Really.

The retiree lost his wife nine months ago. And his lungs, well, a lifetime of work spraying plastic PCB coating on telephone wires ("1,000 miles a week," he tells a woman on a train) hasn’t been great for his breathing.

But he’s doing OK.

He’s even turning over a new leaf or two, like gardening, cooking and, most importantly, trying to renew his relationships with his four adult children.

Frank loves his kids. But actually relating to them? Well, that was mostly Mom’s job. Dad’s role? Drilling into them the importance of excellence. His ethos, boiled down to its essence? "Work hard. Make me proud."

And so they have.

David is an artist in New York. Amy runs a high-powered ad agency in Chicago. Rosie is a professional dancer in Vegas. And Robert? He conducts the prestigious Pacific Northwest Orchestra, currently on a world tour.

Frank’s looking forward to having all four kids home for a reunion he’s been planning, the first since his wife’s death. He’s buying expensive wine ("I wanna make a good impression on my kids"), a new grill, even some filet mignon.

One by one, though, his prosperous progeny inform him that they’re not going to be able to make it home after all. "Too busy," they all say, in one way or another. But they insist they’re looking forward to seeing him, well, sometime soon. Don’t worry about us, Dad, they all say, we’re doing fine.

Still, Frank wants to see them. So even though his doctor says it’s a bad idea, he decides to make surprise visits to each one. And that cross-country odyssey—buses and trains shuttle him from his home in Pennsylvania to New York City, Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas—forces Frank to face the painful reality that everybody is, in fact, not doing fine … and that much of the responsibility for their troubles has to do with his inability to face hard truths.

Advertisement

Positive Elements

Everybody’s Fine explores how two of Frank’s character traits—perfectionism and denial of difficult realities—have ultimately wrought havoc in his children’s lives. That Frank has caused such damage over the course of their lifetimes isn’t positive, of course. But the fact that he’s trying to face the truth for the first time in his life is.

Frank’s loneliness in the wake of his wife’s death has inspired him to reconnect with his children. His initiative, though it’s sincere and well-intentioned, is met by evasive excuses and lukewarm responses by his children. Clearly, they’re not interested in seeing him or spending time with him—a reality that sinks in all the more deeply when Frank shows up on their various doorsteps.

Frank is polite and respectful—but crestfallen—as Amy, Robert and Rosie all resist his attempts to relate to them in a new way. And over the course of his impromptu visits, Frank begins to realize that his hard-charging approach to life has practically compelled each of his children to lie to him.

Rosie sums up her siblings’ attitudes when she admits, "We always talked to Mom. Mom was the easiest to talk to. You always worried too much if everything wasn’t perfect. Mom was a good listener. … You pushed us pretty hard."

Then, two crises force this family to come to grips with the truth about their dysfunctional relationships: Frank has a heart attack on the plane home (an obvious metaphor for his broken heart) and David overdoses on drugs.

So the truth comes out, and the family tries to make a fresh start of sorts, symbolized by spending Christmas together. Frank is finally able to say sincerely, "As long as they’re happy, that would be fine with me."

Throughout the film, storms (both literal and metaphorical) are depicted as forces that reveal truths we don’t want to deal with. The hurricane moving steadily up the East Coast, for example, is named Alice—the Greek word for truth, we’re told.

Spiritual Content

A couple of times Frank talks to his deceased wife as if she could still hear him. Whether or not this is for his own sake or whether he thinks she can hear him in the afterlife is unclear. A dream sequence of sorts involves making peace with David.

Sexual Content

It’s said that Rosie can’t decide whether she "likes boys or girls." There’s some evidence of both. She has a baby, perhaps indicating the former. But she comes home for Christmas with a woman who seems to be a romantic partner, indicating the latter.

While Frank’s waiting at his son’s apartment, a scantily clad prostitute asks him, "You wanna see my legs?" and hikes up her already short skirt a bit farther. Frank replies, "You wanna see mine?" Elsewhere, Frank misconstrues a female truck driver’s suggestion about staying at a hotel as a proposition. (It isn’t.)

An effeminate man at Amy’s advertising agency suggestively quips and gestures about the temperature being "a little nippy."

Violent Content

After Frank compassionately gives some money to a homeless man in a bus station hallway, the man tries to mug him and smashes Frank’s bottle of medication with his foot. On an airplane, Frank has what looks like an asthma attack that, we learn later, precipitates his heart attack. He thrashes about in a the airplane’s lavatory before an attendant finds him.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word, which is combined with an abuse of Christ’s name. There are also three s-words and at least four more exclamations of Jesus’ name. God’s name is misused half-a-dozen times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Several scenes involve wine at meals; one takes place at a Vegas bar. Twice, Frank goes to the grocery store and purchases wine.

Frank criticizes Robert’s smoking habit. When Robert reminds him that he (Frank) smoked several packs a day for much of his life, Frank simply says that he quit. To please his dad, Robert says that he, too, is quitting, right on the spot—though both seem aware that the vow will likely last only as long as the conversation.

[Spoiler Warning] We learn that when he was about to be arrested for using drugs in a bar, David swallowed them all, which results in an overdose that kills him.

Frank takes prescription medication for his lung condition.

Other Negative Elements

Amy, Rosie and Robert all deceive their father in fairly significant ways. Amy and her husband are separated and moving toward divorce after both, apparently, had affairs. Yet when Frank shows up, they pretend to be a happy couple. In addition, Amy lies about her son Jack’s health and his grades.

Rosie hides the fact that she’s had a baby and that she’s not actually a dancer but a waitress. When her dad shows up she pretends that a friend’s posh apartment is her own and acts as if she’s merely babysitting. As for Robert, well, he’s not really a symphony conductor, merely a percussionist—a truth that’s somehow gotten obscured in his conversations with his dad.

Frank lies too. He refuses to tell his doctor he’s left town even when he desperately needs medication.

Several times we hear a crass saying of Frank’s that has to do with dogs urinating on a wall. A couple of camera shots focus on a stone cherub holding his penis and "urinating" water.

Conclusion

I half expected Harry Chapin’s tear-jerking 1974 classic "Cats in the Cradle" to play during the credits of Everybody’s Fine.

After all, this is a story about a man whose children do, in fact, turn out just like him. Which is to say, they’re busy with life, struggling to make important relationships work and struggling even more to tell themselves and each other the hard truths in their lives.

So it turns out that no one in this movie is actually fine—at least not at first. As they begin to come to grips with their respective disappointments, though, the film inches toward a more hopeful conclusion.

As a busy father (who is himself the son of a busy father), this movie connected with me emotionally. How easy it is, I was reminded, for any of us to make huge mistakes, even as we try our best to do our best … and to get our children to do their best, too. The antidote, we see, is striving to tell the truth—whether that’s to ourselves or to those closest to us.

I talked with Everybody’s Fine director Kirk Jones about how hard it can be to reckon with hard truths in our families. He said, "Frank becomes aware pretty quickly that his wife filtered the news and made his kids sound like they were happier than they were. But what I like about his journey is how he asks the same question of all of his children one way or another. And that is, ’Are you happy?’ That question demonstrates that there has been some change in Frank. When he was younger he felt the need to push them and inspire them to fulfill their potential. But now that he is older, the most important thing is that his children are happy. By the end of the film he’s able to accept the truth about his family."

In that sense, Everybody’s Fine serves as a sentimental—if at times profane—cautionary tale about the perils of perfectionism and the importance of unconditional love.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!