EVERYTHING MUST GO (Dir. Dan Rush, 2011)
Usually the summer movie season is time for a big dumb Will Ferrell comedy, but not this time around.
Here Ferrell takes on a spare indie film in which he plays a somewhat pathetic yet sympathetic character – a man who gets fired from his corporate job (by Glenn Howerton of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, no less) because of his drinking, then comes home to find his wife has left him. She changed the locks, and all of Ferrell’s possessions are on the front lawn. His company car is repossessed soon after as well.
Drinking PBR after PBR, Ferrell tries to make the best of the situation. He hires a young boy (Christopher Jordan Wallace) to help him hold a yard sale after his former AA sponsor (Michael Peña) tells him that’s the only way he can legally live outside on the property for 5 more days.
Ferrell eyes a new neighbor across the street – a pregnant Rebecca Hall – with who he strikes up a friendship, he blackmails another neighbor (Stephen Root) for electricity after witnessing some S&M practices through Root’s and wife’s window, and he schools Wallace in business tips as well as baseball training.
Through this all, Ferrell’s restrained though obviously pained demeanor adds up to his best performance. In previous films like STRANGER THAN FICTION, MELINDA AND MELINDA, and even his over-the-top comic work, he’s hinted at layers of this kind of depth, but here it’s present in every scene.
Although it’s based on a 4-page Raymond Carver short story (“Why Don’t You Dance?”), it bears little resemblance to it except for the basic premise of an alcoholic selling all his belongings in his front yard. Of course, it would have to be fleshed out for a 96 minute movie and writer/director Dan Rush does an admirable job of doing just that.
EVERYTHING MUST GO is a quiet touching movie that never tries to hard or panders too heavily to dramatic conventions. In its best scenes, themes aren’t spelled out; they’re inside the minds of the characters.
As an old high school friend who Ferrell happens to be reminded of because of an old yearbook, Laura Dern has a greatly affecting scene. Dern and Ferrell catch up after decades of non-communication on her front porch, and there’s a nice notion in the air that people in the movies can just share a moment together without a forced romance getting in the way.
Same goes for Ferrell’s scenes with Rebecca Hall – the organic connection between these 2 people’s desperate pleasantries is palpable and endearing.
In Carver’s short story, a young woman (who doesn’t exist in the movie), can’t quite figure out the man with his stuff in the yard who kept playing records on an old crappy turntable as she and her boyfriend danced.
Carver writes about her telling her friends about it: “She kept talking. She told everyone. There was more to it, and she was trying to get it talked out. After a time, she quit trying.”
This film knows that sometimes you can’t get things talked out. Hmm, maybe it resembles the short story more than I thought.