Adapted from a Raymond Carver story, Dan Rush’s Everything Must Go stars Will Ferrell as a washed up alcoholic whose life has hit rock bottom.
Nick Halsey (Ferrell) is an executive salesman who, after a drunken incident whilst away on a business trip, loses his job and his wife all in the same day. After being ordered to pack up his desk, he returns home to find the locks have been changed, his bank account closed and all his belongings lay carelessly on the front lawn. With nowhere else to go and no money to remove his things, he decides to camp out in his front garden, sleeping on his lazy boy chair whilst drinking excessively to numb the pain.
His policeman friend and former AA sponsor Frank (Michael Pena), is fully aware of Nick’s dilemma and arrives at his house the next day to inform him that by law, a man can only hold a yard sale for three consecutive days. After a couple of nights wallowing in his own misfortune, Nick, with the support of an overweight, neglected neighbourhood kid, Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) starts to sell all his processions – a cathartic procedure which slowly begins to free him from the self imposed mess he’s found himself in.
Desperate, lonely but ultimately kind-hearted, the character of Nick Halsey comes with an abundance of emotional baggage that Ferrell sadly fails to express. In Stranger than Fiction Ferrell showed he can handle more ‘serious’ roles, however, with the film’s laboured pace offering little support, he flounders like a fish out of water, unable to successfully convey the devastation felt by his character which, ultimately results in the audience failing to sympathise with his predicament.
Everything Must Go, is an incredibly uncomplicated drama whose conventionality belies its subtle message. This tirelessly familiar and overly contrived story sadly never really gets off the ground, leaving the screen void of anything of interest other than Ferrell’s morose and underwhelming performance. Nick’s behaviour may not make him a model citizen; however, from the information the viewer is privy to he never appears to warrant the extent of the punishment he’s been dealt, with his new found homelessness feeling like little more than a manufactured plot device that’s never fully explained.
The rest of the cast, including Laura Dern (Nick’s old college flame) and Rebecca Hall (The caring, pregnant neighbour who helps Nick realise he needs to start his life from scratch) are all underused, with each given woefully little screen time. The worst example of this is with Christopher Jordan Wallace as Kenny, Nick’s only real friend during this period of manic depression. This young, sombre but insightful role is never fully expanded upon, with the spotlight very much thrust on Ferrell for the entirety of the movie. Whilst Nick’s situation may be the basis of the film’s plot, it’s these supporting players who actually make the story come alive – their limited appearances only amplify the belief that Everything Must Go is little more than an actor’s showcase for Ferrell to display his apparent ability to command ‘straighter’ roles.
Attempting to capture the magic of such leisurely modern Indie films as The Station Agent, Lost in Translation or Broken Flowers, Dan Rush’s film sadly lacks the poignancy to effectively connect to its audience in the same subtly moving way as its peers. Perhaps in more reliable hands Everything Must Go may have captured the essence of Carver’s story about a man forced to lose everything in order to begin again, yet unfortunately all we’re left with is a misguided and emotionally numb affectation of other, more assured dramas.
Everything Must Go is in cinemas 14th October 2011.
Director: Dan Rush
Stars: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Christopher Jordan Wallace
Runtime: 97 min