Although The Other Guys was decent and Megamind is one of the better animated films in the last five years, it’s tough to be a Will Ferrell fan these days. After the trifecta of Old School, Elf, and Anchorman, Ferrell made about five awful movies in a row (Semi-Pro, Step Brothers, Blades of Glory, etc.). It's as though his stupidly unfunny cameo in the last Austin Powers movie was his career guide instead of the sweetly idiotic Buddy the Elf. It’s nice to see something like Everything Must Go, then, because it’s not a great movie or a comedy, but it does remind you that there is hope for Will Ferrell.
It barely registered in theaters and weak development of some characters makes it less impressive than it should be, but Will Ferrell’s dramatic turn in Everything Must Go deserves a bigger audience than it got. It certainly deserves a bigger audience than Ferrell’s misguided turn on The Office. Based on a short story by Raymond Carver and adapted and directed by first-timer Dan Rush, Ferrell invests real emotion and sympathy into the role. His innate likeability is a plus here as you continue to root for his character even though he is a bit of a jerk.
Ferrell’s Nick Halsey is an alcoholic. Not a hilarious alcoholic who blacks out with a lampshade on his head to the amusement of all, but a salesman whose drinking costs him his job and his wife. On the same day. Okay, that’s a little fishy and convenient, but Halsey is fired from his job and comes home to find the locks changed in his house, all his stuff in the front yard, and his wife gone. Another convenient contrivance is that Halsey doesn’t do what anyone else would do in that circumstance: break into his home and move his stuff back in. Instead, he lives on his front lawn with his stuff, drinking beer, rejecting good advice, and ultimately selling a bunch of his stuff so he can have one of those life-changing experiences that only happen when you hit rock bottom.
Much of the life-changing comes from his relationships with two new friends. One, a fat black kid, Kenny (Christopher Wallace), helps Nick run his “yard sale” that Nick’s AA sponsor cop friend Frank (Michael Pena) says is the only way he can leave stuff outside without, you know, doing something with his life. The other is a newly moved-in neighbor, Samantha (Rebecca Hall), who shares a few dinners and talks with Nick. Both Kenny and Samantha share Nick’s main emotion, loneliness, and their friendship helps Nick on the journey from selfish drunken husband to less-selfish and not-drunken unemployed salesman.
Rush keeps the tone on everything very light. It’s not a comedy in any sense, but there is some easy humor, and while no one would want Nick’s life, the real horrors of alcohol abuse aren’t brought to the forefront. Everyone is a bit half-drawn, even Nick. This isn’t a deep character study or a realistic portrayal of a man with a serious problem; it’s a Nick-starts-off-at-the-bottom-and-ends-up-in-the-middle feel-goodish story with some very fine performances. Ferrell is good getting away from ridiculous wigs and accents, and Wallace just puts a smile on your face when he shows up. Not sure why, he's just a good kid that you’re happy to see succeed selling Nick’s crap to the neighbors.
Like I said, Everything Must Go deserves a bigger audience. Not because it’s a great movie or an “important” movie, but because it’s well made and meets its own modest expectations. Also, it might convince Will Ferrell that light drama done well is preferable to idiotic comedy done poorly.
Everything Must Go made about $3 million in its theatrical release, and if you saw it, you were probably very lonely in the theater. Still, the studio is obviously hoping that Ferrell’s stardom will pull in a few people on DVD, and I truly hope it does. It’s a nice little disc with a few extras and a good movie, certainly worth your time.
Writer/director Dan Rush and actor Michael Pena provide a surprisingly impressive commentary. While Pena spends a little too much time trying to be witty, there is a good chemistry between the two and their back-and-forth is funny at times. Otherwise, both men are informative about the filmmaking and acting, and the comments strike a good balance between technical issues, story development, performances, and on-set stories. It is definitely worth a listen.
There are also about 12 minutes of deleted scenes. They include an extended sequence where Nick gets fired and what can only be described as an alternate ending where he moves into a new apartment. There is also a funny/sad scene where Nick calls a hooker over and ends up just talking drunkenly about his wife while she steals his stuff. I think they should have left it in as the movie is fairly short, and another two minutes for this scene wouldn’t have hurt.
There are two featurettes, both running about 10 minutes, that cover the Nick character and his performance by Ferrell, as well as a general “behind-the-scenes” featurette. Although they are pretty standard, they do have a feel that is a bit more low-key and homemade than those that are slickly produced. They also give a good understanding of making a movie on a low budget and fast shooting schedule, just 24 days. Another interesting aspect is that Ferrell says he doesn’t get many scripts like this one because people don’t see him that way. It’s a nice bit of information and might explain why he makes so many bad movies when he’s clearly capable of more.
There isn’t a ton of extra stuff, but it’s a low-budget film, and for that you do get a nice selection. The movie itself is good, and it’s worth supporting Will Ferrell when he does something different, so pick this up, keep your expectations of belly laughs in check, and enjoy.