>> Sunday, October 16, 2011
USA/C-97m./Dir: Dan Rush/Wr: Dan Rush (based on the story “Why Don’t You Dance” by Raymond Carver)/Cast: Will Ferrell (Nick Halsey), Christopher Jordan Wallace (Kenny Loftus), Rebecca Hall (Samantha), Michael Peña (Frank Garcia), Stephan Root (Elliot), Laura Dern (Delilah), Glenn Howerton (Gary)
“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard,” goes the popular theatrical expression. The line has been attributed to everyone from Edmund Kean to Edmund Gwenn, but whatever the origin; there is truth behind the phrase. Comedic performance is a more difficult skill than dramatic acting. Still audiences and even some critics are surprised each time a comedian proves him or herself to be a capable dramatic actor.
Will Ferrell is the latest comic to stretch his dramatic muscles, playing a down-on-his-luck alcoholic in the indie dramedy Everything Must Go.His character, Nick Halsey, is fired from his high-paid sales position due to a history of alcoholism and an unsubstantiated charge of a drunken sexual encounter with a fellow employee. His day goes from bad to badder when he arrives home to find that his wife has left him. Not only that; she’s changed the locks on the house and scattered his possessions across the front lawn. Having nowhere else to go, Nick settles into his easy chair, amidst his other valuables, and begins to down a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
When the cops arrive due to complaints from his neighbors, Nick is forced to hold a yard sale as an excuse for camping out on the lawn. Sitting amongst the clutter, Nick meets a new neighbor (Rebecca Hall) and a lonely kid (Christopher Jordan Wallace) with whom he forges tentative friendships. Together, they help him suffer through the stress of drying out.
As one would expect, Ferrell acquits himself well in the role, which spans from playing light comedy to simulating the sickness of alcohol withdrawal. He is the main reason to see the movie, and it is the comic’s second-best screen performance to date (his turn as Buddy in Elf being the first).
Unfortunately, the movie itself isn’t nearly as memorable as Ferrell’s performance. Everything Must Go isn’t a bad film. The supporting performances are all quite good, the direction from first-timer Dan Rush shows promise, and the cinematography by Michael Barrett is often surprisingly beautiful. The problem is the story, which screams earnest indie -- a middle aged man takes stock of his life, while dealing with an addiction, with the help of a lonely kid and through meaningful conversations with a new neighbor who just happens to be dealing with similar circumstances. On top of that, there is the yard sale, which serves as a ham-fisted metaphor for letting go. Blecch. It is a credit to the cast and crew that they make this stale pabulum palatable.
If you are a fan of Ferrell or a soused cinema completist, you may want to give Everything Must Go a spin on disc. The picture is a pleasant enough way to waste 97 minutes, but it adds nothing new to the booze movie subgenre of alcoholism films.
Drinks Consumed--Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and unnamed hard liquor in a flask
Intoxicating Effects--Sneaking sips, drunk driving, outdoor urination, destruction of property, and the shakes
Potent Quotables--COP: How much have you had to drink?
NICK: Uh… In my opinion, not enough.
COP: Ya know there’s a law about having open containers in public, right?
NICK: There’s a law that says I can’t drink a fuckin’ beer on my front lawn?
COP: Sir, you’re going to have to come with me.
Video Availability--DVDand Blu-Ray(Roadside Attractions)
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Dick Van Dyke played it straight as a public relations man battling alcoholism in the 1974 ABC Movie of the Week, The Morning After.