Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is having a really bad day. In the first few minutes of the film he loses his job, his wife locks him out of the house and leaves town (first throwing all his possessions on the front lawn), his car is repossessed, his bank accounts are locked out, and he falls off the wagon and begins drinking again.
Unable to deal with the situation, Nick begins living on his front lawn, drinking all day long, and pretending to hold a yard sale to keep the police from arresting him. During his plummet to rock bottom he meets a new neighbor (Rebecca Hall), befriends a neighborhood kid with little direction (Christopher Jordan Wallace), and discovers a few tawdry secrets about his neighbors (Stephen Root, Rosalie Michaels).
The script from writer/director Dan Rush (based on a short story by Raymond Carver) isn’t all that original, but it is told well. We’ve seen the tale before, perhaps not as ridiculous as this (Really? He has no recourse to access his bank accounts?) as he discovers, both literally and figuratively, Everything Must Go.
Along the way we get the evolving friendship of Nick and Kenny (Wallace) as well as the relationship between Nick and his AA sponsor (Michael Peña). There’s also the tease of possible love interests in the new neighbor (Hall) and an old high school friend (Laura Dern), but the story is really about Nick and his struggle to rebuild his life without even a roof over his head.
The movie certainly doesn’t paint salesmen (or the execs they work for) in anything resembling a favorable light. Though, to be fair, there’s no one perfect in the world that Nick lives (mostly due to his own poor decision-making).
The story takes the predictable pattern. Nick hits rock bottom, slowly gets better, and is eventually tempted by a situation he’s unprepared to deal with. I’ve got no problem with that. In many ways this film is simply following the tried-and-true formula for this type of story. In fact, the situation presented falls squarely on his shoulders and feels natural (or as natural as you’re going to get in this type of tale).
What I disliked was the need to directly follow up this moment with yet another test which is far more contrived and unnecessary, cheapening the film a bit in my eyes, and adding an unnecessary level of complication to one of the film’s primary relationships.
Everything Must Go is a fine film, that in more experienced hands might have been more. It might be worth a trip to the local art house, but you aren’t going to miss anything by waiting to view this one on DVD (or even cable). Still, the performances are all worth seeing and it’s nice now and again for Ferrell, in as low-key a performance as I’ve ever seen him deliver, to remind us he can do more than run around in his underwear.