' ' Cinema Romantico: Everything Must Go

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Everything Must Go

When I think of Will Ferrell I think of over-boisterousness and voice immodulation. I think of that moment in "Old School" when he and his pals are grilling the applicants for their fraternity and Will Ferrell, suddenly, roars at one of them like a lion which prompts Vince Vaughn's character to admonish, "Pace yourself." In nearly every role Ferrell's ever played - even the good ones - there are moments when you just want to tell him, "Pace yourself." But there is another Will Ferrell I enjoy, one not seen nearly enough, where he stops forcing things, whether the film requires him to or not, and just lets the situation play out and reacts to it. And as the Nick Halsey of "Everything Must Go", his situation is both dire and, soleley from a cinematic standpoint, simple. It's Italian Neo-Realism filtered through Frank The Tank. He gets fired from his sales job of 16 years and then returns home to learn his wife (never seen) has changed all the locks on the house and placed all his worldly belongings out in the front yard. All men would have a different reaction. Nick's is to buy a few beers and settle down in his recliner. "I'm not leaving my stuff."


Based on a Raymond Carver (very) short story, this is the whole set-up. Working as writer and director, Dan Rush is in no hurry to push these events faster than they need to go and his film works best when it simply lets Nick deal with it. His car is impounded. His credit cards are turned off. Where's he going to shower? What's he going to eat? How's he going to get this stuff off the lawn? Is he going to get this stuff off the lawn?

Detective Frank Garcia (Michael Pena) turns up. It seems those beers Nick is drinking are not just a one time coping mechanism. He is a former full-fledged alcoholic and Frank was his sponsor. He had curbed his addiction. Recently it returned. Perhaps this is what has wrought the situation on the lawn. Frank calmly explains Nick has the right to hold a yard sale for no more than five consecutive days. After that, he'll have to go to jail.

Gradually a family-like trio, not totally unlike "The Station Agent", just more confined, will form. There is Samantha (Rebecca Hall), his brand new, pregnant neighbor across the street, a photographer who has moved halfway across the country on account of her husband who hasn't even arrived yet. There is Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace), a young, chubby kid, who pedals his bike up and down the block all day and dreams of making the baseball team.

All the supporting actors are fine but Rush decidedly puts the ball in Ferrell's hand and asks him to win the game, and while Ferrell had done dramatic work previously - "Stranger Than Fiction", "A Winter Passing" - he mistook doing nothing for depth. Here, for the first time in his career, he locates the middle ground. He plays Nick as an entirely functioning alcoholic, someone who can put away a 12 pack and still get to work on time but who slowly, unwittingly, lets all those 12 packs pull him under. His poolside confession to Hall's character about what essentially got him fired and what possibly led to his wife turning her back on him is startling, due in no small part to the quiet way he goes about re-telling it, the manner in which he repeatedly employs the words "ya know", the fact that he's really not that angry, partially because he himself can't say to a certainty what happened. It's regret, but more than that it's a disbelief and, simultaneously, a complete understanding of why he let himself go back down that path. What's most puzzling, though, is at the screening I attended several audience members laughed intermittently during this monologue. It's not funny in any way. Are people just programmed to laugh at this guy? Was this nervous laughter? Confused laughter? Come on, let's give this guy his due. He's not ready for Shakespeare in the park, mind you, but this is a considerable step forward.

And that is what "Everything Must Go" is spread out over 90 minutes. A step forward. A guy who needs to get it together finally comes to real terms with this when he's exiled to his lawn. The movie has no giant payoff at the end precisely because it can't. Nick manages to solve the crisis put forth at the film's beginning. That's it. Now the hard part starts. 

1 comment:

5plitreel said...

Great to see that this was succesful on Ferrel's part ! He was great in The Office too, too bad he's leaving.