Everything Must Go ***
Directed by: Dan Rush.
Written by: Dan Rush based on the short story by Raymond Carver.
Starring: Will Ferrell (Nick Halsey), Rebecca Hall (Samantha), Stephen Root (Elliot), Laura Dern (Delilah), Michael Peña (Frank Garcia), Christopher Jordan Wallace (Kenny Loftus), Glenn Howerton (
Nick Halsey is having a bad day. He has just been fired from his job, that he has had for 16 years, because his employers have finally had enough of his drinking. After numerous trips to rehab, and other conselling programs, his drinking has become too reckless, and may leave the company open to a giant sexual harassment lawsuit – and he can’t even really defend himself because he was so drunk, he doesn’t remember what he did. So, he drives home to his large suburban house, and finds all of his stuff on the front lawn, with a note on the door. His wife is leaving him, doesn’t want to see or talk to him, and just wants him to take his stuff and go. She isn’t inside the house, but he can’t get in, because she’s changed the locks and the alarm codes. He can’t really go anywhere else either, because she has frozen their bank accounts. So Nick buys some beer, and sits down in his favorite chair on his lawn. This is his house, this is his stuff, and damn it, he’s not going anywhere.
It is a testament to Will Ferrell’s performance as Nick, that we grow to like him through the course of the movie. This isn’t a violent drunk – he hasn’t abused his wife in a physical way, but he has let drinking take over his life. He needs to drink, and doesn’t think he needs to change. When the neighbors call the police to complain about him living on his lawn, Frank (Michael Pena) shows up. He is Nick’s AA sponsor – obviously not the best one – and gives him a permit to hold a yard sale. The city only allows him to have one for five straight days. After that, Nick has to go somewhere else. Nick will eventually decide to sell off all of his stuff. Get rid of everything in his life, and perhaps make a fresh start. If he can.
There are other characters who drift into Nick’s orbit. The new neighbor Samantha (Rebecca Hall), who is pregnant, and moving in across the street and waiting for her husband to arrive. We gather from one sided phone calls that she doesn’t know when that will be. Then there’s Nick (Christopher Jordan Wallace, son of the late rapper Notorious BIG), whose mother works long hours, and essentially by himself all day. He’s not good at sports, and isn’t popular, and he’s curious about this man living on his front lawn.
The movie is understated in a nice way. It doesn’t force anything, and it feels natural. Will Ferrell, who is usually doing his schtick, is quiet in this movie, and brings a weight to Nick that is understated, but suitable for his character. He is at a crossroads in his life, and has no idea on where to go. His friendship with Samantha is nicely played by both Ferrell and Hall. He knows what is really going on in her marriage, and tries to help, but also knows that nothing he can say really will help. The character of Nick, the young boy, is even better handled. He isn’t a smart alec kid, but a real one, reaching out for some sort of connection.
The real purpose of the movie is to lay Nick bare in a way that is abnormal, but effective. He argues that he is no more screwed up than anyone else on the street but his problems on his lawn, inside of hiding in his house. Perhaps he has a point. We never really know what goes on inside other people’s houses. Nick just has the misfortune of having everyone see just how screwed up he really is. The movie ends without any real resolution, and perhaps that’s the best choice. Now Nick can start fresh if he wants to. Who knows if he really will.