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Film Review: Everything Must Go

After seeing a handful of what I found to be pretty funny previews, the Wife and I decided to take in the new Will Ferrell movie “Everything Must Go.”  I knew this film was going to be a dark comedy, but I don’t think I was prepared for how “dark” it actually got at times.  One might even be correct in saying this film could be considered a “light drama.”

On the surface, Everything Must Go is a film about guy who is essentially having the worst day of his life.  Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is a recovering alcoholic, who is failing at the recovering part.  In fact it’s this constant failure that costs Nick his job during the opening scene of the movie.  When the movie opens we see Nick being fired by his smug yuppie boss Gary (Glenn Howerton, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).   During the conversation with his boss we get a small glimpse of why Nick is being let go; an apparent relapse during a trip to Denver where Nick might have lost control of his alcohol intake and done something inappropriate.  It’s not until later in the movie that we learn what that incident was.

Nick leaves, after his many years of service, with his “gift from the higher ups” (a pathetic pocket knife), and after redistributing that gift into his now former boss’s car tire, he heads home, but not before picking up a case of his favorite beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon.  As Nick arrives home we see the front lawn of his home is full of what look likes junk.  We quickly see that his day has gone from bad to worse as his wife has apparently kicked him out of the house, and put all of his belongings on the front lawn.  Just as you start to feel sorry for Nick, there is a perfect break in all the seriousness with a funny back and forth between Nick and his annoying neighbor played by Stephen Root (Cedar Rapids) where the neighbor says that he saw this coming a mile away, to where Nick promptly thanks him for “the heads up.”

Nick eventually has a run in with the local police because “neighbors” have called complaining about him not only drinking, but more importantly, living on his front lawn.  After a brief back and forth Nick requests that the cops call Detective Frank Garcia (Michael Pena, Observe and Report).  We see Detective Garcia not only a friend of Nick’s but also his AA sponsor.  Detective Garcia urges Nick to move on with his life, and to start he suggests he just get rid of all the junk on the lawn.  Nick is resistant to say the least.  Detective Garcia provides Nick with the info that the city allows someone to hold a yard sale for no more than 5 consecutive days, which is a subtle way of telling Nick he has (now) 3 days to figure his shit out or face the consequences.

On the following day Nick meets 2 people who will play a pivotal part in his life path for the near future.  First he meets a young boy who keeps riding his bike back and forth by Nick’s lawn named Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace, the son of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.).  Kenny is a bright and quick young man who eventually becomes Nick’s new business partner in the yard sale business.  The second person is a new neighbor Samantha (Rebecca Hall, The Town) who is pregnant and has just arrived to the neighborhood without her husband, who is still back in New York.  Nick and Samantha have some very powerful scenes together, but none more than a scene where Nick finally reveals the extent of his drinking problem and explains the incident in Denver that cost him his job, and his marriage.

As the film moves forward we see Nick and Kenny grow really close.  Nick does not have kids of his own, but you can see how he and Kenny start to develop a father and son relationship, especially when Kenny confides in Nick that he wishes he could learn to play baseball.  Nick strikes a deal with Kenny that if he helps him sell all of his stuff at the impending yard sale, he will teach him how to play baseball.  While Nick and Samantha have very powerful and emotionally charged interactions with each other, Nick and Kenny’s scenes are mostly filled with light-hearted back and forth.  Two examples are as follows:

Nick: Why do you want to play baseball?  You should really play football.  You’re a natural left tackle Kenny.

Kenny: My mom won’t let me, she says it’s too dangerous.

Nick: Well, what about soccer?

Kenny: Black people don’t play soccer!

Nick: Whole continents of black people play soccer!  Ever heard of Pele?

And another is a really funny session of “Yo Momma” jokes that ends abruptly when Kenny tells one such joke that ends with a punch-line involving flour and a wet spot…..if you know “Yo Momma” jokes, you know which one I’m talking about.  Nick asks Kenny with a serious face, “Do you even know what that means,” to which Kenny replies just as serious, “No.”

Nick starts to feel that he is just destined to be a horrible failure when Kenny comes across an old high school year book of Nick’s.  In it Nick finds a particular message written by a former classmate, Delilah, which reads something along the lines of Nick being a “diamond in the rough” and how much of a good person he is.  Nick attempts to track down this former classmate, and is success discovering she lives nearby (I found this part a little unrealistic).  Nick tracks down Delilah and goes and visits her.  The current day Delilah, played by Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) lives alone with her 2 daughters, and is overjoyed to see Nick again.  During their conversations Nick asks her why she wrote what she did in his year book, to which Delilah replies in telling him a story about how he was really nice to her in high school and even protected her at a party (Nick admits he doesn’t remember that incident).  Delilah senses that Nick is struggling with life, so she reiterates her feelings from their time together in high school saying, “You have a big heart.”  She also lets him know that when he figures himself out, she will still be around and would love to get to know him again.  It’s clear Nick is searching for some reason to keep going on in life.

The movie comes to a close with Nick selling all of his remaining belongings, and still holding on to the idea that this is the way to get his life, and more importantly, his wife back.  We also see some serious “truths” revealed that caught Nick (and me for that matter) off guard.  And just as you get the feeling that the movie is going to end on a sense of a high note, these revelations send Nick spiraling even farther down the rabbit-hole of depression.

My Take On It

I’m a huge Will Ferrell fan, and not just SNL Will Ferrell.  I have enjoyed most of what he has put out.   And to be honest I have been a bigger fan of his more serious stuff (i.e. Everything Must Go and Stranger Than Fiction) than I was of his earlier comedies fresh out of SNL.  And as much as I enjoyed this film, it really caught me off guard with how serious it was at times.  This film touches on a lot of very serious topics in a short amount of time, and a few times I caught myself thinking it might be a bit much.  Some of the topics are alcoholism, infidelity, child abandonment, dishonesty, lack of integrity in the workplace, and odd sexual preferences to name a few.

But just as serious as this film was, it was also very real.  We see Nick as an “every man” who is flawed, and at times it seems like he is beyond repair.  But just as you reach the point where you would throw your hands up in the air and give up on Nick, you get this glimpse of weakness and vulnerability that is true with every one of us.  This weakness is one of Nick’s better qualities, and viewers can’t help but relate.

In the end I really enjoyed this movie a few days after I watched it.  If you would have asked me right after the movie, I probably would have sounded disappointed because I thought it was going to be funnier.  But the more I thought on the movie and replayed it in my head (yes people, I can replay whole movies in my head, lol) the more I began to like it.  As a person who has struggled with different substances, as well as life issues (as I’m sure many of us do) I relate to the character of Nick and begin to feel his pain, and see his struggle.

Will Ferrell did a fantastic job at shedding his normal slap-stick persona for this movie and to truly embrace the brokenness that is Nick.  There were many times throughout the film where I almost forgot it was Will Ferrell playing Nick.  But as good as Will Ferrell was, the big surprise was Christopher Jordan Wallace.  This young man has a bright future in acting.  Up until now his only experience in acting was playing the 8-13 year old version of his late father Biggie Smalls in the film Notorious.  Christopher showed a wide range in this film, but none more important than the art of comedic timing.

I recommend seeing this movie on a date night out with that special someone, but be forewarned that this film is not slap-happy funny fest.  It will play havoc with your emotions, but in the end you should walk out with a smile on your face.

I give this film 4 out 5 cases of PBR.

Mike

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