Will Ferrell (Nick Halsey) gets fired and loses everything in the deadpan comedy Everything Must Go. Dan Rush writes and directs.
Bad day gets worse
Nick has been top dog in his sales district. Then he brawls with an important customer, and gets arrested for a DUI.
Nick’s day gets worse. He arrives home to find all his possessions – clothes, old records, trophies – dumped on the front lawn. His wife is gone. The locks have been changed.
Nick leaves a message on her voicemail. “Can’t this happen another day?” Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction) nails it with an open, vulnerable performance.
Rush keeps it unsentimental, following Nick’s plodding and occasionally delightful progress. Based on the Raymond Carver short story Why Don’t You Dance?, the film develops beautifully the modern day loneliness of Carver’s characters.
Marooned on his front yard, his car repossessed and bank account frozen, Nick is forced to take stock and embark on an odyssey. Luckily it seldom rains in Phoenix (although there are lawn sprinklers to contend with).
Nick settles back in his leather easy chair, gulping his way through two six packs. An unexpected ally Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace of Notorious) shows up, riding his bike, asking questions.
Kenny is a chubby neighborhood kid, smart, enterprising and fatherless. Samantha (Rebecca Hall of The Town) is Nick’s pretty, pregnant new neighbor, a good listener who’s waiting for her husband to arrive from across the country.
Delilah (dynamic Laura Dern), with her exquisitely pained smile, is the soulful, empathetic high school friend who signed Nick’s yearbook.
A.A. not helping
Nick’s A.A. sponsor Frank Garcia (Michael Pena), a police detective, can keep him out of jail for five days as long as Nick calls his situation a yard sale. He’s losing patience with his friend’s on-again, off-again sobriety.
Nick consoles himself by breaking into his own back yard and pissing in his wife’s pond of Japanese koi. He watches home movies outdoors.
Nick’s father was a mean drunk. His mother did love him. Nick bumps into his kinky neighbor (Stephen Root, hilarious) and his ex-boss (Glenn Howerton, textbook obnoxious).
Are we friends?
Nick’s turning point is teaching Kenny baseball, embracing “a little less me and a little more we.” Eventually he decides to let go of his possessions, the debris of his life. He hires Kenny to help him with the yard sale.
“Give the customers what they want,” Nick coaches Kenny. “Make it easy for them to buy.” It turns out that Kenny has a knack for people pleasing and making sales. Soon he’s reading The Sales Bible, negotiating the best deals and slowly clearing the front yard.
Lashing out at sweet Samantha one day, Nick realizes how difficult he can be. Still he yearns to win back his wife, who we never meet.
Visiting Delilah, Nick sees her raising two kids on her own. “You have a good heart, Nicholas. That doesn’t change,” she tells him.
There’s no grand epiphany in Everything Must Go. Change is ongoing, sometimes maddeningly slow. Friends can help. (5 out of 5 stars)
If you like Everything Must Go, you might enjoy: The Beaver; Barney’s Version.
Everything Must Go 2010 / R / 1 hour, 36 min
Cast Overview: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Michael Pena, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Glenn Howerton, Stephen Root, Laura Dern
Director: Dan Rush
Genre: Indie Drama, Dramedy, Dark Comedy