Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is having the worst day of his life.
After having a relapse into alcoholism, he is accused of sexually harassing a co-worker and is fired from the job he has had for 16 years. On his way out, he leaves a present in the form of a Swiss army knife in the tire of his boss Gary’s (Glenn Howerton) car. He picks up way too much alcohol and heads home. When he arrives at home, he finds all of his belongings out on the front lawn, the locks to the house changed, his bank account frozen and his wife gone. Nick is unwilling to leave all of his earthly possessions unattended, so he decides to stay there, living on his lawn until he can figure something out.
When neighbors start to complain, the police tell him he has to leave. However, he is told that if he holds a yard sale then he has three days max to be able to keep everything on his lawn. In between drunken slumber and junk-food eating, he learns he has a new neighbor, Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a very pregnant and determined women who is moving into her house alone while her husband is off working. Nick also forms an oddball friendship with a neighborhood latchkey kid named Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) who he makes his assistant in the yard sale. As people begin to arrive to purchase items, Nick seems unwilling to sell anything, but as the movie progresses and his deadline to leave grows closer, he must learn to let go of the past in order to have a future.
Will Ferrell is a great comedian who has made a name for himself with his characters screaming and wild antics, but over the years his fans have grown weary of every character he plays basically being the same. Besides playing Harold Crick in 2006’s “Stranger Than Fiction,” he has not had any truly dramatic roles. Yes, he has his moments of quirk in “Everything Must Go,” but this is the furthest departure from comedy that he has ever allowed himself to go before.
Going into the film you have to be prepared for the slower pace of a character-driven drama, and although Ferrell is either sad or drunk the majority of the movie, there are scenes that highlight the relationships he builds with Samantha and Kenny, and those are some of the best scenes in the film. Nick learns that Kenny is being picked on at school because of his weight, so he decides to teach him about the only real thing he knows anything about — sales. As Kenny learns to become a master salesman, you can see him open up and become more confident. This was a nice addition to the movie that helps balance out the sad drama we see throughout the film. Some fun cameos and small parts are also played by Laura Dern, Stephen Root, Todd Bryant, Andy McDermott and Scott Takeda.
As always, Ferrell has his dead-pan looks, but instead of the usual over-reacting that most of his roles require, this one is so very subtle and understated you almost want to check his pulse. My friends did complain that this movie is pretty slow paced, but sometimes you need nothing major going on to see a mental or spiritual transformation onscreen.
Written and directed by first-timer Dan Rush, “Everything Must Go” is as much a cautionary tale as it is a journey and triumph through a rough time in Nick’s life. The lesson here is that sometimes you must reach your lowest to recognize how messed up you are and that you need to change.
This movie isn’t for everyone; especially those expecting the usual antics out of Ferrell, but those interested in seeing a nice, subtle performance and a different side to the actor will want to check it out.
“Everything Must Go” is in limited release now and is rated R for language and sexual content.
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