Everything Must Go

Yard sale, rummage sale, garage sale…whatever you call it, it means the same thing:  Take my junk so I don’t have to move it around my house to find room for my new junk.  That’s what these sales would be called if it fit on the posters.  Sorting through your stuff trying to decide what to sell can be a little cathartic.  It can bring back memories (both bad and good), help deal with past troubling situations and generally give the feeling of a fresh start.  For most, the yard sale is their idea, but for the hero in this week’s movie, “Everything Must Go,” finding everything he owns on the front lawn was not how he intended to end his day.

Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon for the third or fourth time.  He is fired from his job as a vice president of an office supply company in Phoenix, Arizona and when he gets home, he discovers his wife has left him, put all his belongs on the front lawn and changed all the locks on the house.  Hoping his wife will return home soon, Nick sits among his stuff and waits, sipping from one of several beers he has on hand.  Neighbors call the police and when a unit responds, Nick asks them to contact Det. Frank Garcia (Michael Pena).  Frank, who is Nick’s AA sponsor, takes care of the patrolmen, but lets Nick know he can’t live on his front lawn.  Frank tells Nick he can briefly get around the legal issues by claiming to be having a yard sale; but that only gives Nick five days.  After that, Frank won’t have any choice but to arrest Nick.  Kenny Loftus (Christopher Jordan Wallace), a neighborhood kid of about 12, rides by on his bike and asks Nick why all his stuff is on the front lawn?  Unable to give a satisfactory answer, Nick pays Kenny to watch his stuff while he goes to the convenience store for more beer.  Unable to find his keys, Nick borrows Kenny’s bike.  While he’s gone, his company car gets taken back, leaving him with no transportation.  His wife has frozen the bank account and cancelled the credit cards, so Nick has no money.  He notices a new neighbor across the street, a pregnant woman named Samantha (Rebecca Hall).  She teaches photography and her husband is a salesman who has recently been transferred from New York to Phoenix, but hasn’t arrived yet.  Nick and Samantha begin an awkward friendship that is more like therapy, each taking turns being the therapist and the patient.  Samantha and Kenny are the closest things Nick has to friends in the neighborhood.  Time is running out on his “yard sale” and he has to decide:  Does he keep it all or must everything go.

The first movie I reviewed for WIMZ.com was “Stranger Than Fiction” which starred Will Ferrell in a more serious movie role than most people were used to.  With its off-beat premise and quirky love story, the movie worked for me largely because of Ferrell’s ability to make me believe he was a regular guy in the movie’s unusual situation.  While this story is much more commonplace and there’s no love story to speak of, “Everything Must Go” works for much the same reason.  Ferrell is a really, really good dramatic actor.  His approach to Nick isn’t showy, over the top or flashy.  It is simply a man reacting to the obstacles life, and his choices, has put in his way.  Some may argue Ferrell’s performance is too understated, too calm considering he’s an alcoholic facing enormous upheaval in his personal and professional life.  I would argue the lack of emoting is probably why the character is an alcoholic in the first place.  The film tells and shows us a little about Nick’s upbringing.  His father was an angry drunk (seen briefly in home movies) and Nick, not wanting to be like dear old dad, keeps his emotions locked in; but it’s this burying of feelings that probably leads Nick to numbing his pain with booze.  Ferrell also keeps his drunken scenes subtle without the overt slurring of words or comic stumbling.  I think it makes these scenes that much sadder.  Nick is a good guy with a devastating problem destroying his picture-perfect suburban life.

The rest of the cast is also excellent in subtle performances.  Rebecca Hall makes Samantha vulnerable and tough, more than willing to call out Nick on his BS when necessary.  While there friendship starts out a little tentative, Samantha gives Nick a certain amount of hope that everything will be alright.  Christopher Jordan Wallace makes Kenny a sympathetic kid who really needs a father-figure in his life.  If he knew how messed up Nick is, he’d run away; but Kenny latches on to this troubled soul looking for direction.  Kenny also provides a kind of anchor for Nick to be able to deal with the whirlwind of change and chaos that surrounds him.

While I really liked the movie, the story felt incomplete.  Perhaps I’m too conventional in my thinking, but there doesn’t seem to be any real resolution to the questions in Nick’s life.  By the end of the film, his relationship with his wife, who we never see or hear from, is sorted out and he seems to have made a decision about his sobriety, but many of these and other questions seem to still be up in the air.  I would have preferred the movie had a definitive ending, giving us a more concrete path for Nick’s life after the film ended and perhaps that’s where my conventional thinking kicks in:  Real life often doesn’t give us solid answers and we are left to continue our story forward into an unknown future.  Still, as a movie-going experience, I would have liked more definitive closure.

“Everything Must Go” is rated R for language and some sexual content.  The sexual content is played mostly for laughs and contains no nudity.  Foul language is scattered.

“Everything Must Go” lives or dies on Ferrell’s performance.  If you don’t care about what happens to him then the rest of the film is just so much disjointed filler.  I did care and hope you give the movie a chance to impress you with his work.  I just wish it had had a more complete ending.

“Everything Must Go” gets four guitars out of five.

It’s the attack of the part two’s at multiplexes across America this week.  Let's hope it isn't the terrible twos.  Also, there's a shot at redemption for Mel Gibson.  Vote for the movie you’d like me to review next.

The Hangover Part II— Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis are back as best buddies who wake up in Bangkok with big problems.

Kung Fu Panda 2— Jack Black returns as the voice of Po the Dragon Warrior, facing his greatest challenge yet in another animated martial arts adventure.

The Beaver— Plagued by his own demons, Walter can't seem to get himself back on track... until a beaver hand puppet enters his life.

Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film currently playing.

Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

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