Will Ferrell tries his hand at the dramatic in Everything Must Go and succeeds on numerous levels.
Everything Must Go is based on the short story Why Don’t You Dance? by Raymond Carver and concerns a middle-aged man who has lost everything and must find his way back to normal. Will Ferrell is Nick Halsey, an alcoholic who has just lost his job the same day his wife left him and changed the locks on their home.
When Ferrell gets home after being fired, he finds all of his things strewn on the front lawn. His wife won’t answer his calls and there is no way to get in the house. What’s a guy to do? Well, Ferrell’s Nick gets drunk and falls asleep on his recliner in the front yard. The next morning while trying to orient himself to his new situation, he meets a young boy (Christopher Jordan Wallace) who is intrigued by the neighborhood man living on his front lawn.
Soon after, the neighbors start complaining about Nick’s drinking and making his front lawn his bedroom and living room. Although Nick is drinking, prior to his firing, he had been sober for six months. When the police respond to the neighbor’s complaints, his sponsor (Michael Pena, The Lincoln Lawyer) — who is also a police detective — tells him that a city ordinance allows homeowners to have items on their lawn for five days in order to have a garage sale. Thus, Everything Must Go.
The heart and soul of Everything Must Go is Will Ferrell. His dramatic acting is stellar and hardly a surprise given the man’s vast amounts of talent. He showed signs of powerful acting in Stranger Than Fiction, but in this film, the dramatic demands are much higher. Audiences will still laugh in parts that are truly funny. Although, after screening the film, we asked ourselves if we were laughing because it’s Will Ferrell, or whether the scenes are truly hilarious. It is Will Ferrell after all.
Ferrell’s Nick character goes through the full range of emotions as he navigates the mess that is his life. It is a disaster, and completely his doing. Witnessing the comedian channel a serious side is merely one aspect of Everything Must Go that makes it a must-see.
The supporting cast is brilliant, including Laura Dern and Notorious BIG’s son as the boy Ferrell winds up employing to help him sell his stuff. Pena is his usual excellent self and Rebecca Hall brings a soft, yet serious, turn as one of Ferrell’s neighbors.
Everything Must Go is also written with grace. Bringing a short story to the big screen and expanding a few pages to over 90 minutes of drama is never an easy task. There are few examples we can think of that work — the most obvious is Brokeback Mountain and the astounding Stephen King’s Stand By Me. The film is also shot in a simplistic manner that reflects the small story. In many ways, Everything Must Go feels like a stage play with its singular focus.
When it comes to the beginning of the summer movie season, there are many choices for the entertainment dollar. More often than not, audiences will choose a Thor over an Everything Must Go. Both films get the same rating from us and each belongs in its own category of cinematic fun. For those who wish for a little resonance with their film experience, Everything Must Go is an early summer movie season must-see.
Everything Must Go review
Out of five stars…