Will Ferrell, Down and Out, in Everything Must Go

Greatly expanded from a four-page, single-situation short story by Raymond Carver, Dan Rush's first feature Everything Must Go is an ambitious if enervated vehicle for Will Ferrell--playing it straight as Nick Halsey, a middle-class drunk fired from his job and locked out of his suburban home by an irate, never-seen spouse on the same day.

As in the Carver story, Halsey uses the belongings his wife has dumped outside to set up house on the front lawn. His public humiliation, complete with repossessed company car and suspended bank account, is barely mitigated by the police detective (Michael Peña) who happens to be his AA sponsor and allows him a five-day grace period in which to operate an impromptu, highly metaphoric, yard  sale --compelled to re-evaluate his past in the light of a cataclysmic present.   

An ungainly presence who occupies far too much space, cultural and

otherwise, Ferrell is one of the least sympathetic personalities in

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movies. To his credit, he makes almost no attempt here to woo the

audience, although his self-pitying lug, usually seen parked outside in

his Barcalounger, brewski in paw, eventually extracts a modicum of

sympathy just by being there. Also by hitting bottom: outta money, outta

beer, reduced to panhandling outside the mini-mart.

Rush has a background in commercials but the rootsy soundtrack

(Lightnin' Hopkins, Ramblin' Jack, Odetta, The Band) doesn't succeed in

selling the movie as an American ballad. Everything Must Go, which is

ostensibly set in Scottsdale, Arizona, has a generic resemblance to

broken-heartland movies like Up in the Air and Cedar Rapids, although

this suburban meltdown is more depressed than either.

Will Ferrell, Down and Out, in Everything Must Go

Such warmth as it exists is generated by Halsey's two new friends, a

lonely little boy (14-year-old Christopher Jordan Wallace, son of the

Notorious B.I.G.) and the pregnant, quasi-abandoned young wife across

the street (Rebecca Hall), as well as the high school classmate he's

inspired to look up (Laura Dern, who brightens the movie instantly if


In the final reel, Rush introduces a plot complication that, had the

preceding hour been leaner, might have worked--kind of like the Titanic

sinking to reveal an iceberg. Still, I can't dismiss the desperate

social realism of a movie offering the solace of a bromide found in a

fortune cookie.

--J. Hoberman

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