Everything Must Go
Including this Film
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall
Review by Robert Patrick
The late literary wunderkind, Raymond Carver, penned a frayed yarn, called, very appropriately, “Why Don’t You Dance?”, about a man whose life gets rubbed out, and dusted away, like excess pencil shavings within the frame of a 24-hour period. What happens next is an emotional stalemate that takes place, of all locations, on his own lawn, after his belongings are tossed out of his house, like discarded peanut shells, by his wife’s hands. Our character’s name is Nick Hallsey, played here by a subdued Will Ferrell. Instead of of yelping and growling, Ferrell purses his lips and arches his shaggy eyebrows, playing in a sandbox environment where he can do his best dramatic posturing. Hallsey is so despondent, morose, unfathomably detached that he decides to live on his lawn, because, as he puts it, “there is no reason not to.” Hallsey has beer cans, scrunched up like aluminum accordions, that lay like woodchips on his lawn. The guy is so depressed that the sweat-ring around the collar of his shirt looks like a makeshift noose. While Ferrell broods and sheepishly cowers in a jungle full of tarnished end tables and spiked grass, he meets a young boy, about the age of twelve, who he becomes friends with. The rest of the movie is spent with the car in idle, as Ferrell sits around, his appliances now lawn gnomes, as he posits questions about life, love, and Pabst Blue Ribbon – and there is more PBR in this movie than there are cans on the company’s factory line.
While the movie, allegedly, is about meditation and self-discovery, everything seems too easy for our character. Home movies and yearbooks are always within arms reach, as he picks them up, exercises his demons, and then, conveniently enough, molts his depression and rids himself of the ghosts of his past. Ferrell isn’t bad in this serious role, but he, in continuing to play depressed businessmen, pigeonholes himself as a lovable, mildly misanthropic man-child whose primary goal is to gawk at his bad luck. I suppose, because of Ferrell’s “everyman” slant, it’s easy to prop him up in one of these roles and feel bad for him. “Everything Must Go” is a good opportunity to watch someone let beer foam from their mouth, like a volcanic eruption of shame, as they sleep in their sprinkler system and urinate on their prized Japanese fish”; all things, I know, moviegoers have been waiting for since the advent of the medium.
The sub plot with the boy that Ferrell meets goes nowhere, strangely, even though the director makes it known that the kid has problems with parental negligence and weight problems. Why introduce these issues if you’re not going to approach them properly? And while Ferrell manages to teach his friend a few things, their relationship is surprisingly static for how often the two interact with each other. If this picture had any sort of cohesion, at any point in the film, it does a continental drift before it can properly solidify. I managed to not, by this point in the review, mention Rebecca Hall, whose inclusion in this film is simply as a canvas for Ferrell’s character to talk about how bad of a person he is.
If a movie is stationary – which this one is – it needs to have sharp dialogue and snapping character development. No one wants to watch someone sit on their lawn for nearly two hours as they drink and pass out. If anything, these are the type of people that you go to a movie to get away from. Sadly, the only marquee this film deserves is at the bottom of a red box machine.