Monday, May 30, 2011

A Movie Review: Everything Must Go (2011)

Everything Must Go (2011)
Director - Dan Rush
97 Min; R
Will Farrell - Nick Halsey
Rebecca Hall - Samantha
Christopher Jordan Wallace - Kenny

Everything Must Go is a 97 minute film based on a short story by Raymond Carver (Why Must We Dance?) that is less than 10 pages in length, so it is only fair for us to assume that there will not be a lot of action sequences, or sequences with a lot happening for that matter, in the movie.  What we do end up seeing is Will Ferrell showing off his serious side, a la Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love (It's the first example that pops into my mind.) In each film the goofball scene stealer actor turns to a darker, emotional side of themselves in order to give us a performance we didn't ask for, but are fortunate we received. 

There isn't much I could spoil in this review, since the film is basically told in 3 simple acts over the span of about a week and we really only come to know 3 characters in depth and 2 others as some back story.  Nick has lost his job of many years after another incident involving his drinking problems.  We learn that his wife wants a divorce and Nick learns the hard way that his time is up.  He arrives at home to find everything he owns on the front lawn.  The ensuing partial mental breakdown can be summed up by saying that Nick spends many nights in his chair on the lawn drinking many beers and not doing much of anything else.  Nick doesn't want to face his situation, he simply wants things to be like they used to be.

A subplot develops with Kenny, a young neighborhood black kid who needs some guidance.  Nick figures he can pay Kenny to watch his stuff when he needs to run to get more beer, and eventually the two of them prepare for the inevitable yard sale that will clear everything from Nick's life.  The kid is played by Christopher Jordan Wallace (The son of Biggie Smalls for those of you paying attention) and he fits into the movie pretty well.  Samantha (Rebecca Hall from Vicki Cristina Barcelona and The Town) is the other subplot as a young, pregnant woman who moves next door and is awaiting news from her husband across country about when he will be coming.  She and Nick form a strained bond in the film as only movie bonds can be made.  I'm not so sure the two of them would ever say more than a congenial hello in passing in real life.

One problem for audiences who don't do their homework will be with Ferrell himself, since he does have a few humorous moments, but this is not a typical comedy for him.  If you don't know going in that this is a dark comedy of sorts you may find yourself put off within the first 10 minutes.  As long as you are able to separate Ferrell the screwball comedian from Ferrell the actor playing Nick Halsey in a Raymond Carver performance, you should do just fine to enjoy the ride for the most part.  Unfortunately the entire ride isn't always to enjoy.  The pacing of the film, brought on by the fact that the source material is so limited, leads to some long and drawn out sequences in which we ask ourselves if this really needed to be made into a feature length film.  This Carver story has been done before in the form of short films less than 20 minutes in length and I can see why.  Carver is a minimalist writer who never really liked to leave a reader with a sense that his characters redeemed themselves, instead we witness short bursts about people's lives, who they are and what they are in that moment - not always a good formula for movies.

I applaud the effort of first time film maker Dan Rush to make us feel compassion for Nick, but that isn't really the point of the story if you ask me, and as you move throughout the film you will undoubtedly find yourself wavering over your like or dislike of this person for various reasons.  In the end a lo of what this film is about is soul searching.  It isn't a feel good movie but it isn't a total downer either.  This is a film that walks the line of tugging our emotional thoughts in two directions and I don''t think it always works too well.  I'm not sold on recommending this film completely, but I will say that the type of person who will enjoy this film probably already knows they are the type of person who will enjoy this film.

*** and 1/2 out of 5

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