Review: Everything Must Go (2011)


Everything Must Go is a rambling, irritating emo-drama that takes the best of Will Ferrell’s comedic idiosyncrasies and transforms them into maudlin dramatic tics in a movie that is at once clearly redundant and surprising in its dullness. We’ve seen countless stories of hapless losers at the end of their rope, who find the will to live via quirky circumstances. This one is no different, except it rambles on with its borrowed concept for scene after scene, plodding about for so long that its only original element is just how monotonous its whininess becomes.

Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, who at film’s beginning is in the process of weathering one of those movie-tastic ‘Worst Days In The History Of The World’ – he loses his cushy Sales Executive job on the same day that his wife kicks him out of the house. And she doesn’t merely kick him out – she literally places his every possession out on the front lawn, thus providing the audience ham-fisted symbolism of outward rejection and setting up the film’s wannabe-high concept. But put that aside for a moment and consider this: looking at the huge amount of crap on the lawn, one must consider what an arduous process it was to move it all out there. Nick’s wife, who remains unseen for the entirety of the film, is overly systematic in separating from her husband in the way most movie serial killers are overly systematic in the clues they leave for detectives. These are not the actions of a real person – they are the actions of filmmakers who are a little too proud of their quirky ideas.

Nick is a recovering alcoholic who, naturally, relapses in the wake of his bad day, in which on top of losing his job and his wife, he also has his bank account seized by his soon-to-be ex, which seems questionable at best and excessive at worst – on the part of the filmmakers, not the wife. As a result, rather than taking action to start over in a more natural fashion, Nick opts to live on his lawn, eventually conducting an everything-must-go sale with the intent to rid himself of all possessions. It’s a cute little concept, I suppose, but the screenplay – adapted by director Dan Rush from a short story by Raymond Carver – is completely dry, and not in a purposeful or engaging way. Scene after scene showcases a glum Ferrell going through the motions, occasionally having conversations with a new neighbor (Rebecca Hall) whose situation conveniently mirrors Nick’s own, while the film never allows us to discover anything that would interest us in continuing to follow these characters. It would be one thing to make a film about an inert character, but the story itself seems immobile, sitting there on the screen treading water, barely making progress…or engaging an audience.

The film is at least commendable for recognizing that its protagonist is his own worst enemy and not shying away from his many shortcomings. Ferrell seems game to tackle a character with an unfunny dark side, but this particular material doesn’t synchronize with his natural energy, even in a character with as little energy as Nick. At times, it seems as if the filmmakers’ intentions are at odds with Ferrell’s as an actor. The trick of famous comedians shifting into dramatic territory is to rein in the broader tendencies but harness the energy into a character’s pathos. Ferrell understands that strategy and utilizes it effectively, but writer/director Rush seems more interested in static melodrama, a choice that sabotages both the film and performance.

The mawkish drama becomes increasingly interminable as the story slogs on, as each conversation becomes more and more obvious in its flaccid self-actualization and some insultingly false twists are thrown in for good measure. Supporting turns by Hall and Laura Dern utterly waste each actress’ immense talent, and Ferrell is left hanging out to dry. Everything Must Go is ultimately quite depressing, a film that seems even more aimless and futile than the character whose story it tells.

35/100 - Everything Must Go is ultimately quite depressing, a film that seems even more aimless and futile than the character whose story it tells.

Jason McKiernan

I married into the cult of cinema at a very young age - I wasn't of legal marriage age, but I didn't care. It has taken advantage of me and abused me many times. Yet I stay in this marriage because I'm obsessed and consumed. Don't try to save me -- I'm too far gone.
  • Anonymous

    Sad, since the Carver story is so good. The makers should have watched THE SWIMMER or THE DEAD on how to stretch out a short story into a film.

  • Christopher Misch

    Weird, I thought this was a comedy. Guess I just jumped to conclusion with Ferrell in the mix.

  • Anonymous

    There are comedic elements, to be sure, and they of course sold the comedy aspect in the marketing, since no one would think of going to a Will Ferrell drama…

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, there is a lot of sitting around and not much to evoke anything other than boredom…