Monday, May 16, 2011

Everything Must Go - Theatrical Review


Release Date: May 13, 2011

It seems the theme of this weekend for me was shattered expectations. However, unlike the disappointment I felt for what Bridesmaids ultimately became, it was a complete reversal for Everything Must Go which means it was nothing like what I went into it expecting and I couldn't be happier.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 30 at the Block in Orange
Time: 12:15 am May 14, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 2D

Loves: Will Ferrell, simple life dramas
Likes: Rebecca Hall, comedians in dramatic roles
Neutral: Movies that make me check my watch
Hates: Nothing actually
First: Time in the directors chair for Dan Rush

I went into Everything Must Go with a blank slate. I had never seen any trailers for it, hadn't read any reviews and knew of no one that had seen it. I just love the experience of walking into a theater and sitting down in that chair not knowing a damn thing about what I am about to see. All I knew was that it starred Will Ferrell and he was holding a yard sale or something along those lines. With a concept like that it seemed like the perfect vehicle for Ferrell's style of comedy and I was prepared for an off the wall comedy romp. But that isn't what I got, instead I sat there in that nearly empty theater and watched the story of a man that is far from perfect and how he handles a series of events that basically bring his life crashing down on to itself. This is not a comedy, this isn't even your typical dramadey, it doesn't have a happy ending or even a bad ending. Heck, when the movie ends there is no real resolution to anything, but in the end it became something unique and that is a rare thing to find in the world of film today, especially during the summer season.

Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) isn't having a very good day. Despite being one of the top associates at a sales firm for the past 16 years of his life he finds himself being let go due to a complaint filed from another female employee. To make matters worse he comes home to find all of his personal belongings such as his favorite recliner and record collection among many other things laying out on his front lawn. Apparently Nick has been suffering from alcohol abuse and even though he has been sober for the past six months his wife has had enough of him so she jettisons his personal artifacts out of the house of which not only she has changed all the locks for their house but she has locked him out of their joint bank account as well  leaving him penniless. Nick doesn't freak out though, he takes it all with a grain of salt and decides to do the next logical on his front lawn for the next 5 days while he tries to process and understand everything that is happening to him.

Nick is getting ready to drown his sorrows.

This is not a movie for everyone, at least it doesn't feel like it in any case. The reason for my saying that is due to the nature of how it tells its story. It definitely starts out the way any other comedy or drama would as we see Nick's life falling apart bit by bit but it is how the film resolves all those issues that may throw some people off. I myself love it when a movie goes in an unexpected direction and ditches the normal conventions of its genre and that is exactly what Everything Must Go does. Anyone looking for a clear cut resolution to Nick's problems will most likely either feel cheated or at a loss as to what the hell the point is. And without any real comedic situations to be found that may leave certain audience members out in the cold.

Adapted from his own short short story, director Dan Rush has compiled an introspective look at what amounts to be nothing more than a small glimpse into the life of a man that is just going through some pretty harsh times. The beauty of the tale isn't so much in how it tells its deceptively simple tale but more so with the complexities of the main character himself. He isn't perfect, he has faults just like everyone else and its not that he is experiencing anything that any other normal person wouldn't. It is how he decides to confront his problems that make it the film unique. He has led a full life, taken trips with his wife all over the world and had a successful career but now things are changing and he doesn't know exactly how to deal with it. Well, that may be a bit of lie actually.

Nick's new home for the next few days.

Cause he does find a way to deal with it. At first when he discovers all his belongings on the front lawn he doesn't really react to it. As a matter of fact he does the complete opposite of reacting to anything that has happened to him and decides to go down to the local liquor mart, pick up some beers and kick back in his chair out on his lawn for all his neighbors to see. Nick is stuck on that lawn like it or not, his wife is out of town, he is locked out and has no real money other than some pocket change but some neighbors want him off the lawn. That is when he learns from his AA sponsor and police detective friend Frank (Michael Pena) that regardless of any complaints from his neighbors he has the right to remain on his front lawn a total of five days but only if he has a yard sale for that period of time. It is inevitable that Nick starts to draw some attention from his neighbors and they all react slightly different to his predicament.

We never really meet too many of the neighbors though, there is his direct neighbor played by Stephen Root who doesn't exactly practice what he preaches, a kid named Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) that is practically taking care of himself and a married pregnant woman across the street Samantha (Rebecca Hall) who is moving into her new home there in Arizona while awaiting her husbands arrival. They all play minor roles over the course of  Nick's five day long yard sale. Nick realizes that he can't always be there to watch over his stuff so being the salesman that he is he recruits Kenny to be his guard and partner for the yard sale and with Kenny being on his own he doesn't hesitate to say yes. The relationship the two form isn't exactly your typical friendship but they most definitely find some common ground as well as a real connection. Nick finds a little self worth from helping Kenny while Kenny begins to find some much needed self respect.

Kenny finds some rare treats for sale.

Nick's relationship with Samantha is a little more complex though. While she finds it odd that Nick is living on his front lawn she is drawn to him in a way that comforts her. Since she is new in town and her husband is away she only has Nick to talk to and the two of them open up to one another in some surprisingly candid conversations. Nick and Samantha find that they both are lost in completely different ways and that each could use some advice. I think it is important to note that Nick isn't exactly a nice guy either...he is kind of an asshole actually and as the film goes on both us and these new friends Nick has made slowly begin to see just how exactly messed up he truly is. This all goes back to him not being a perfect guy, he has issues and those issues have made him a very bitter person.

The moments he spends with Kenny and Samantha though begin to shed some light on why he is the way he is and you can't help but feel bad for the guy. While he did get himself to the point he is currently at by doing some pretty unforgivable things in his past due to his drinking you can see that he isn't nearly as bad as he comes off. The growth of Nick as a person is what got me in the end but it isn't a perfect growth which is what I liked. He learns some much needed lessons and you get the sense that when the film ends that he still isn't at a point where he is going to be OK. You know that he still has some choices that need to be made and if he makes the wrong ones he could end up right back where he started. But I believe the point to the movie is that we all have choices and it is how we decide to live that defines our path and that despite hitting some major speed bumps and having a semi-perfect reality shattered that everything can still turn out for the best just so long as we decide to keep moving forward and believe in ourselves.

Samantha is intrigued by Nick and his current situation.

As for all the yard sale shenanigans, all that is more window dressing than anything else. This is where my expectations were shifted when I realized this wasn't going to be a laugh out loud kind of movie. While we do spend a lot of time on that front lawn with Nick it isn't really about him living on the front lawn and being a difficult jerk. It felt like the yard sale was more about how Nick was growing and learning, the more he was able to let go of and let people buy the more liberated he started to become. And I don't mean to sound as if the film is deeply philosophical because it really isn't, this is just things I thought about in hindsight after watching the movie. While I actually watched the movie I found it to have this underlining feeling of calm to the proceedings that I appreciated.

I do want to mention Will Ferrell before I finish this because I think he did a phenomenal job and deserves to have his performance recognized. Its not so much that he did anything new with this type of character or the shock of seeing the crazy man tethered down by a dramatic role (check out Stranger Than Fiction) but it was just an all around great bit of acting from the guy. There were those moments every so often when I would think he was going to go into lunatic mode (which he does so well) but he was very restrained here. I don't think the part was much of a stretch for the man but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be complimented for it. Plus I just love when actors appear in smaller independent films like this and play against type, I respect that because it helps reinforce that they are more about the art than the least that is what I like to believe.

Nick takes a break from the yard sale for some quiet time.

Did I have any issues with the film? Yeah, a couple things stuck out to me that could have been handled a little better. I thought the Stephen Root character was basically useless for his few scenes and provided absolutely nothing to the narrative. And while I liked how the film wrapped up and left Nick's life as an open book of possibilities I would have appreciated a little more follow up on the old High School friend Delilah (Laura Dern) that he went and sought out. That one element was the only thing that felt incomplete to me and if we would have seen her again at the end it would have been a nice way to see Nick sail off into the sunset. Also the film dragged every now and then which normally wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that this is a fairly short movie. It wasn't distracting in the least but there were plenty of moments when you could tell this was a short story that had some extra fat added on to pad out a longer running time.

It's strange, as much as I enjoyed it as I watched it I can't help but feel as though the movie is somewhat inconsequential. It doesn't really cover any new ground as a character study and the only truly unique thing about it, the five day long yard sale, is mostly just fluff. I suppose I can see the premise being used to greater effect if it was a straight up comedy because the few funny moments that do occur showed a lot of promise for a film of that type. Regardless though it is a fun and harmless little movie that has a good message to it and some fine performances from everyone involved. While it isn't necessary to see it during its theatrical run you should at some point definitely...




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