[The following review originally appeared as part of my TIFF coverage at Showcase and we thank the powers that be there for allowing us to reprint it now on ScreenAnarchy.]
With Dan Rush's Everything Must Go
, star Will Ferrell delivers a performance that offers virtually nothing of the Ferrell that his core fans have come to know and love in the sort of film largely attended by people who typically have a strong dislike for films starring people like Will Ferrell. This leads me to believe that virtually nobody will ever actually go to see Ferrell in Everything Must Go
, which is a bit of a crime because it is exactly the sort of performance that could forever alter the way people look at the man.
Ferrell star as Nicolas Halsey, a man in the throes of a very bad day when we first meet him. He begins by being fired from his job of sixteen years, a job he is actually quite good at. It continues when he arrives home to find the locks changed, his wife gone and all of his worldly possessions on his front lawn. The common element behind both of these events: Alcohol and Halsey's weakness for it. Because despite being a genuinely nice man, friendly and giving and intelligent, Nick is also an alcoholic and everybody in his life seems to have had about enough of that.
With his home closed to him and his bank accounts frozen, Nick simply sets up shop on his front lawn, his easy chair and a cooler full of beer being all he needs to get him through the day. He meets the pregnant lady who has moved in across the street. He befriends a lonely boy whose mother is a hospice nurse caring for a dying neighbor down the street. And he sits and drinks and intends to do nothing else until someone makes him. That will take five days.
Local law allows for a resident to hold a Yard Sale for five consecutive days, after which they must clean up and stop being a visual nuisance for his neighbors. So Nick has five days to sit on his yard and drink his dwindling cash supplies down while surveying the remnants of his failed life. And then he must go. It doesn't matter where, he just has to go. And so, with the help of the lonely boy, Nick's fake yard sale gradually becomes a real one as he takes an inventory of himself and begins to shed his past.
A remarkably subtle and nuanced bit of melancholy, any humour here is purely of the dark variety. Writer-director Dan Rush's script is a finely wrought piece of work, one which apparently landed on the Black List - an industry insiders list of the best unproduced scripts circulating in Hollywood - a couple years back. It is notable on a few levels. The characters are rich and complex. The pacing manages to treat Nick's situation seriously without becoming bogged down in it. What humor there is is surprisingly effective without breaking the overall feel of the story. But mostly it is remarkable for its ability to treat Nick's alcoholism seriously without ever once demonizing him for his addiction or letting him off the hook for his failings. He's not a devil or a victim, just a guy in a really bad situation.
As good as Rush's writing is, it would have been pointless without a strong performance at the core and this has several. All of the supporting players are bang on - fans of Laura Dern will be happy to see her turn up in a minor part - and Ferrell, well Ferrell nails it. This is the most subtle and restrained Ferrell has ever been asked to be and it fits him like a glove. There is no resorting to quirks and tics or antics of any sort. This is not Ferrell the comedian, this is Ferrell the actor and Ferrell the actor proves to be very, very good.
Will anybody ever see this film? Will it do any sort of significant business at the box office? No, I don't think so. But don't judge its success based on dollars. Base it on what's on screen rather than what's in the till and it is a remarkable piece of work.