Sunday, November 27, 2011

Will Ferrell Dominates An Entirely Depressing Film When Everything Must Go.

The Good: Mood, Acting, Characters
The Bad: Mood is so oppressive that it is hard to care about the characters.
The Basics: Everything Must Go offers a strong dramatic role to Will Ferrell who nails it, but leaves the viewer so depressed they do not care.

It seems like lately I have been catching up on art films. Last weekend, my wife and I finally caught Super (reviewed here!) and despite its tone and somewhat derivative nature, I found I enjoyed it quite a bit. So, I thought I would go 2 for 2 when I saw Will Ferrell's independent film, Everything Must Go at our local library. Unfortunately, the drama that Ferrell completely rocks is so oppressive in mood and devoid of plot that it is impossible to recommend.

Everything Must Go falls into the category of movie that is technically wonderful, but utterly unwatchable. From the title and basic characterization, viewers with any psychological insight can tell where the movie is going and that it does not defy expectations both disappointed and impressed me. I didn't want a happy Hollywood ending for Everything Must Go, but at the same time, I wanted a character marginally more interesting than Nick Halsey. Instead, Everything Must Go avoids all attempts at sensationalism and sinks the viewer into an entirely accurate and depressing representation of the world for one very, very depressing man.

Nick Halsey is an alcoholic and after sixteen years of working for a big corporation, he is fired. Popping his supervisor's tires with the knife he is given as a parting gift, Nick returns to his house to find himself locked out, his possessions on the front yard and a note from his wife informing him that the marriage is over. Nick meets a child who is hanging around the neighborhood, Kenny, and hires him to watch his stuff while he goes out to get beer. On the way home, Nick's car is repossessed by his company and he sits down in his chair in his front lawn and gets drunk.

After the neighbors call the police, Nick is given a temporary chance from a police detective, Frank, who is also his sponsor. Local law allows Nick to have a garage sale for up to five days and over the course of the five days, Nick becomes more and more prepared to move on. Hiring Kenny, Nick slowly begins to sell his possessions, while getting to know the new neighbor across the street. As Nick loses everything, including his last beer, he sinks further into depression and considers what future the world might actually hold for him.

Everything Must Go is a dramatic role for a traditionally comedic actor, much the way Punch-Drunk Love provided Adam Sandler with a role with real gravitas. In Everything Must Go Will Ferrell embodies utter dependence upon alcohol with his Nick not without a beer within arm's reach until the last half hour of the movie. Ferrell is understated and precise and this is one of the best roles he has ever taken on.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to care about Nick Halsey or Everything Must Go after a very short amount of time. The film is depressing and sad, quickly becoming a realist work that mirrors the lives of so many people we might actually know that it lacks entertainment value. The noticeable lack of soundtrack, the static camera angles, the lack of witty responses from the protagonist and the utter anguish that Will Ferrell portrays makes director Dan Rush's film one of the most emotionally cold ventures ever to grace the screen.

Ferrell is well-supported by Christopher Jordan Wallace, Rebecca Hall and, briefly, Michael Pena. Christopher Jordan Wallace plays Kenny and is delightfully engaging, defying the industry-adage that child actors are a pain to work with. Wallace is quiet, articulate and plays Kenny well, adding a physical presence to the movie that Ferrell's performance purposely diminishes. As Nick shrinks back into his chair, Wallace as Kenny stands taller and steals the focus. Rebecca Hall is understated as Samantha, the neighbor across the street. Stephen Root, Laura Dern, and Glenn Howerton make very brief supporting performances that are good.

Ultimately, it comes to Will Ferrell to make Everything Must Go work and he does it. He does it in pretty much the same way Will Smith made The Pursuit Of Happyness work. He defies expectations, delivers what humor the movie has with an un-Ferrell-esque delivery and he never yells. In the past, I have noted that Ferrell's acting slips when his characters yell and that is not the case in Everything Must Go. Even at his most heated as Nick, the viewer feels they are watching Nick Halsey, not Will Ferrell.

On DVD, Everything Must Go features a bunch of bonus features, but the film itself left me so depressed, I could not bring myself to watch them. Those who love Will Ferrell's works, but want to see just what his range can be, Everything Must Go delivers. But for those hoping for funny or even quirky, this film is an utter letdown and that is an unfortunate surprise from one of today's masters.

For other works with Michael Pena, be sure to check out my reviews of:
30 Minutes Or Less
Battle Los Angeles
Million Dollar Baby


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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