Everything Must Go Review

(2.5 STARS)

There’s a point in almost every comedian’s career at which he decides it’s time to get serious. Adam Sandler had Punch-Drunk Love. Jim Carrey had The Truman Show. Robin Williams had Dead Poets Society. Now, Will Ferrell has Everything Must Go. The film, writer/director Dan Rush’s debut, is completely devoid of Ferrell’s typical overgrown-child-type humor (despite the fact that he spends most of the film drunk). Instead, Ferrell goes dark, and he pulls it off. I don’t think the film was worthy of his performance, but if you take anything away from Everything Must Go, let it be that Ferrell is, in fact, a very capable actor.

Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, a man who’s having the worst day of his life. After losing his job, he comes home to find his wife has skipped town and left all his belongings on their front lawn. The locks have been changed, his credit cards have been halted, and she won’t answer his phone calls, so Nick does what he normally does in these situations: Drink. Pabst Blue Ribbon becomes his closest companion as he spends every day and every night on the lawn in his favorite recliner, trying to protect his things. His sponsor and friend, Detective Frank Garcia (Michael Peña), tries to coax him out of turning to drink, but with nothing but old records and baseball trophies to keep him company, Nick has no desire to do anything but drink his problems away. As things continue to spiral out of control, a kindly neighborhood boy, Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace), and a lonely pregnant neighbor, Samantha (Rebecca Hall), try to provide him company, but it’s clear the only person who can get Nick out of his funk is himself.

Everything Must Go definitely isn’t the most original movie. (How many times have we seen a film open with the main character getting fired?) It does have some interesting things to say about identity, however. Without a job, wife, and kids, Nick’s left with only his belongings. They are the only remnants left of his life, and if he wants things to change, he must rid himself of these physical reminders of what’s gone. So the film’s central choice, in many ways, revolves around whether or not Nick should sell his stuff. It sounds simplistic, but is presented as anything but.

I thought there were a few contrivances in the film that were difficult to forgive. As the film barrels toward its conclusion, the screenplay piles things on a bit thick. It got to the point where Nick was no longer asking for trouble, yet absolutely everything continued to go wrong. There was a point to it all, I suppose, but the unsatisfying way by which we reach that point makes the film feel a bit flimsy.

As I stated earlier, the real reason to see Everything Must Go is Will Ferrell. He’s excellent and never lets his larger-than-life persona get in the way of his character. There are a few other solid performances, namely from Rebecca Hall as Nick’s fragile neighbor, but no actor gets the opportunity to shine the way Ferrell does.

Films like this often have a hard time finding an audience. Fans of drama doesn’t expect a comedic actor to have the necessary skills to pull off a serious role, while comedy fans see the subject matter and are quickly turned off. Be forewarned that Everything Must Go is a downer, and that the screenplay has some issues, but those curious about Ferrell’s acting skills should check out.

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