Will Ferrell stars in this adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story ‘Why Don’t You Dance?’ and shows he can do intense dramatic acting just as well as he does his usual comedy shtick. In Everything Must Go he plays Nick Halsey, a struggling alcoholic who suffers one disappointment after another on a day that sees him descend into an alcohol fuelled gloom. Debutant Director Dan Rush adapts Carver’s five-page story neatly, never over-complicating a simple but touching movie.
The film starts with Nick being fired by his slimy young boss who cites Nick’s alcoholism as the main cause of his dismissal. Upon returning home he finds his wife gone, his house locks changed and all his worldly possessions left on the front lawn. To make matters worse, his ATM card has been cancelled and his joint bank account closed. Finding solace in the bottom of a beer can, Nick resorts to living on his front lawn. Come the morning, after being woken up by his sprinkler, Nick gets a visit from the cops who try to remove him from his makeshift homestead. Luckily, his AA sponsor Frank (Michael Pena) is a detective who intervenes and finds Nick a loophole whereby he can hold a lawn sale for a maximum of five days thus allowing him to remain outside his home.
A young pregnant woman called Samantha (Rebecca Hall) moves in across the street and takes pity on Nick as the two strike up an uneasy friendship. Nick also receives help from a quiet young boy, Kenny, who rides his bike up and down the street while his mum is at work. Fatherless Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace, son of the late Biggie Smalls), agrees to help Nick sell his belongings in exchange for payment and baseball lessons. After spending the last of his money on beers, Nick begins to spiral out of control once again and ends up horribly offending Samantha. After waking up guilty and groggy on his front lawn once again, Nick slowly realises he must face his demons and overcome his addiction in order to sell his possessions and thus begin to make positive changes in his life.
Unlike so many other film drunks, Nick is not an especially fun and exciting character. He doesn’t go out and party and become a lovable buffoon, he simply drinks alone and gets quietly drunk. He’s clearly a troubled character who has been struggling with addiction for a long time. He has lost everything he held dear because of the drink and yet at his lowest ebb it provides him with a small crumb of comfort. Ferrell conveys this well and creates a character with a genuine heart and unseen depths that you can’t help but root for. He’s a normal guy who made some mistakes and is there suffering right before your eyes. Letting go of his possessions would provide a much needed cathartic release and help him to move on, only it’s always far easier said than done to shed belongings that possess so many memories.
The relationships Nick has with his three key confidants, Samantha, Kenny and Frank, all work well, with the blossoming surrogate father/son bond he shares with Kenny particularly well managed. Samantha meanwhile brings out both the best and worst in Nick as she witnesses both his sober caring side as well as his drunken idiotic one. Rebecca Hall plays her role well and gives us a character that is clearly caring enough to try and help nick but also has her own problems as well which she must address.
The film does have the odd funny moment but by and large the tone is a fairly subdued one. Even the film’s resolution, which won’t appeal to all, leaves matters on a distinctly bittersweet note. This seems fitting for the film as a whole however as it isn’t a feel good film about one man turning his life around. Everything Must Go is about a man realising he has to change, he has to let go of parts of his past and to do so it will be a long and arduous journey. With a bit of help though, he just might be finally going in the right direction.
Everything Must Go is out on DVD & blu-ray 31st october 2011.
Director: Dan Rush
Stars: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Christopher Jordan Wallace
Runtime: 97 min