Movie Review: ‘Everything Must Go’
Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is having a very bad day. He gets canned from his job, then arrives home to find that his wife has left him, changed the locks, and placed every single item he owns on the front lawn. His credit cards and phone have been cut off, as well. That’s all it takes for this recovering alcoholic to lose his tremulous grasp on sobriety, and just like that, he retreats back into the comfort of the bottle.
A rational person would start taking steps to move their belongings, but Nick settles into his easy chair with a twelve pack and there he stays for the next several days, squatting on his own front lawn. Naturally this doesn’t sit well with the neighbors, and Nick is told he has three days to clean up his stuff. Over the course of those three days, we see the man have a complete mental breakdown as he examines the harsh realities of his messed up life. Most of us carry our baggage with us, Nick’s is literally strewn about for the world to see. Sports memorabilia, yearbooks, albums-it’s all right there, daring him to revisit the memories each item holds.
The film is based on a short story by Raymond Carver, whose stories have been adapted into a multitude of films, most notably Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. Mercifully, this film adaptation takes a few liberties with the source material, and Nick is allowed a bit of a redemptive character arc. As he sells his possessions off one by one, we can see how cathartic the process is, and the film ultimately presents a bit of hope for the anguished protagonist.
Nick forges a few unlikely friendships with neighborhood types he encounters while he camps out. An urban pre-teen (Christopher Jordan Wallace) rides his bike around the burb because his mother takes care of an elderly woman on the block. Nick convinces the man to watch his belongings whenever he needs to go replenish his beer supply at the local quick-stop; in return he teaches the boy how to throw a baseball and the basic principles of sales techniques.
He also makes the acquaintance of a lonely pregnant woman (Rebecca Hall) who just moved in across the street. The three of them come together like an oddball surrogate family for those few days, but you know that their limited interactions will impact their lives forever. This character driven drama had a lot in common with a couple of Sophia Coppola’s films-Lost in Translation and last year’s Somewhere. In all three films, seemingly random and unexpected encounters are more significant than they first appear.
There’s not a lot that happens in Everything Must Go, but it’s a charming film nonetheless. Will Ferrell delivers one of the best dramatic performances of the year, and deserves to have his name tossed around a bit when award season rolls around. His devastating turn as a relapsing alcoholic anchors the film and garners our sympathy from the get-go. At heart Nick is a good guy who has had a run of bad luck (admittedly brought upon himself). Ferrell’s played it straight before (Stranger Than Fiction, Melinda and Melinda), but this is his best performance to date.
Hall’s performance as the neighbor is subtle but fully fleshed out, and the two performances meld wonderfully together to produce a sweet, rich and rewarding indie film. Laura Dern and Michael Pena also have small roles in the film.