Director: Dan Rush
Starring: Will Ferrell
Runtime: 92 mins
Not many people have seen or ever will see Everything Must Go. It’s certainly destined to lie next to other unremarkable, smaller scale films with star actors – like that one where Kevin Bacon is a paedophile or the one where Jake Gyllenhaal gets to touch Jennifer Aniston’s boobs – on the back shelf of a struggling independent DVD store. It’s not that Everything Must Go isn’t a good movie; the characters are portrayed with genuine depth, but it’s not penetrating enough for the viewer to become emotionally involved. It makes you grin but not laugh, and worst of all it purports to be interesting but is never captivating.
Will Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, who after losing his job, getting a divorce and being locked out of his house, decides to live on his front lawn with all the possessions that used to define him. Ferrell is a fine actor and in a film with more to say could really have done something special: his depiction of a man at rock bottom is consistently effortless. Even in outbursts of raw emotion, Ferrell manages to avoid melodrama.
His performance does justice to the Raymond Carver short story that the film is based on, and the director Dan Rush does at least try and achieve the ‘quiet desperation’ that Carver is so famous for. However, Rush misplaces the minimalistic tone of the short story, making the whole movie forgettable. The camera remains still and produces soft images in the hope that meaning will emerge; unfortunately it never does.
Ferrell is not alone in trying to lift the movie out of obscurity. Christopher Jordan Wallace as Kenny, the boy Halsey employs to watch his things while he runs errands, is a great child foil to Ferrell’s depressed drunk. Their relationship is pitched perfectly as Wallace avoids the cliché of children who are just there to remind the character in need of redemption that things can change.
I do not begrudge the hour and 40 minutes I spent with Nick Halsey. The movie avoids the normal indie-drama fair of providing the depressed main character a way out with a manic pixie dream girl or deux ex machina. It’s just unfortunate that the depth and subtlety of the characters never manage to transcend the predictable trajectory of the story.