Everything Must Go is a character study with the lead being given to Will Ferrell. Despite what the trailers and TV spots might want you to believe, this is not a comedy. It doesn’t come close to being a comedy. This is not all that enjoyable to watch. The opening scene has Nick Halsey (Ferrell) fired from his job and thrown out of his house by his wife, forcing him to live on the front lawn of their house. While I can see the possibility for comedy given the scenario, make no mistake: This is not a funny movie.
The reason for both of these misfortunes is the fact that Nick is an alcoholic. A functioning alcoholic — someone whose business numbers are just as good as they ever have been — but an alcoholic nonetheless. There was an incident in Denver, a time when Nick was trying to get sober, when Nick got really drunk and ended up maybe or maybe not doing something with another woman, so his wife is leaving him for infidelity and he’s being fired because that woman threatened to sue.
Unfortunately, in the town he lives in, living on your lawn is against the law. He questions this, but the police officers are adamant that sitting outside on your own property is illegal. He’s given a week to get his act together, or he’ll be hauled off to jail. Unfortunately, his wife has locked him out of the house, put a lock on all of his funds, and even cut off his cell phone usage. He essentially has to sell all of his stuff in a week or be forced to go to jail.
To aid him on his quest are a few people. The first is a random kid, Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace), who rides his bike around because his mother doesn’t look after him all that much. Kenny proves very useful, and accepts a job to help run the yard sale. Next is the new neighbor, Samantha (Rebecca Hall), who has just moved in, is pregnant, and is waiting on her husband to show up. Next, we have a Detective and Nick’s AA sponsor, Frank (Michael Peña). Finally, we have the can of beer that is always in Nick’s hand. Seriously, for someone who claims to be trying to reach sobriety, he hardly goes a frame in this film without a can in his hand.
That’s about all there is to the plot. These characters come and go with much rapidity, all serving more or less one purpose, but they appear often enough to not feel tacked-on, and we never forget they exist. Ferrell is the star, however, and I always appreciate seeing him in a dramatic role. While I’m not frequently a fan of his comedic outings, I’m always up for a Will Ferrell drama. Here, he once again shows that he has a real talent for acting with depth, and he takes a complicated character and injects him with humanity.
The major downside to Everything Must Go is that it feels like a film we’ve seen before, and since it moves at such a slow pace with a plot as simple as they come, we really notice that it’s not doing anything unique. There’s one surprise that might make you appreciate the film for managing to trick you, but the rest of it is as clichéd as you can get. You’ll know basically every decision that Nick will make before he does it, and as soon as a scene starts, you can pretty much figure out how it’s going to conclude.
Perhaps this is the reason that the film didn’t strike that much of an emotional chord with me. Since you can usually figure out what’s going to happen ahead of time, you emotionally prepare yourself well in advance. Nothing actually makes much of an impact because you’ve braced yourself. It also doesn’t seem particularly real or even realistic since it’s so clichéd. These can’t be real people because they act so much like movie characters that you can’t believe in them, no matter how well acted they are.
That’s not to say that this is a bad movie, but it fails to connect to me on a higher level. It brings up some interesting points, but never makes them relatable to an audience. But it is very well acted, and the story is told in a coherent and simplistic way. The cinematography is also simple, using lots of stationary shots. Then again, what more can you do when a lot of the film has Will Ferrell sitting on a comfy chair on his front lawn, sipping the last drops of beer from the can he’s been working on for a whole five minutes now?
With that said, if you go in expecting a typical Will Ferrell film, you’re going to be very, very disappointed when it’s over. This is far more in line with Stranger than Fiction than, say, Step Brothers, both in the way that Ferrell acts and in its tone. This isn’t a happy film, and it’s not one you watch to be really entertained. You watch it to either see a good performance from a mostly comedic actor, or because you want to see some insight into how devastating a condition alcoholism is. You’re not really looking for easy entertainment, but if you are, you’ve come to the wrong film.
Everything Must Go is a good film that’s only true blunder is not being able to relate to an audience on any higher level. We understand everything that’s going on, and we appreciate it for that, but any emotional connection is lost somewhere in the middle. I think it’s because of how predictable the film, not its characters, are. We know what’s coming, and aren’t surprised when “tragic” events happen. It’s not necessarily worth a watch just for that reason, but if you need a film to watch in order to appreciate that Will Ferrell has real talent, this is the one to watch.