Everything Must Go review / Susan Granger
Published 12:20 pm, Wednesday, June 1, 2011
In this low-key dramedy, Will Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, an alcoholic sales exec who is not only fired from his job but is also cast out by his (unseen) wife who has changed the locks on their Phoenix, Arizona, suburban home and filed for divorce. After discovering his car has been repossessed, his credit card and bank ATM are invalid and all his worldly possessions have been dumped in front of his house, Nick takes up residence on the lawn, ordering take-out food and beer-drinking himself into oblivion at night on a Naugahyde recliner.
Under the guise of having a yard sale, Nick befriends lonely Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace), an overweight 14 year-old whose mother works in the neighborhood, and Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a pregnant, very nervous new neighbor. In doing so - and with the help of his AA sponsor/policeman buddy (Michael Pena) - he begins to grasp the idea of life-renewal, a self-discovery concept strengthened by an encounter with a former high-school classmate (Laura Dern) who acknowledges that, while he's always had a good heart, it's his actions that count.
Adapted from a Raymond Carver short story "Why Don't You Dance" and directed by Dan Rush, it marks only the second time in his career that Will Ferrell has played it straight - after "Stranger Than Fiction" - and he superbly captures Nick's weary, bleary despair and angst. There's no comedy here, just perceptive observations about the frailty of the human condition, particularly as it involves the anguish of alcoholism and possibilities for recovery. Unfortunately, first-time writer/director Rush doesn't know where and when to conclude his narrative, stretching it out unnecessarily.
Film buffs may recognize that this is not the first adaptation of the bleak Carver tale of middle-age malaise. Back in 2004, Australian filmmaker Andrew Kotatko fashioned it into "Everything Goes" with Hugo Weaving and Abbie Cornish.
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On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Everything Must Go" is an unflinching, if meandering 6, painting a cinematic portrait of self-destruction with, perhaps, a hopeful glimmer of redemption.