Everything Must Go Will Ferrell, blithe impersonator of obtuse elves, TV anchormen, and former presidents, is not the first actor one thinks of to play Nick Halsey, an… Everything Must Go Will Ferrell, blithe impersonator of obtuse elves, TV anchormen, and former presidents, is not the first actor one thinks of to play Nick Halsey, an… 2011-05-13 R PT96M Comedy Drama Will Ferrell Rebecca Hall Christopher Jordan Wallace Lionsgate Roadside Attractions
Movie Review

Everything Must Go (2011)

MPAA Rating: R

Photos

23 disappointing movie adaptations

Book-to-big-screen projects that left fans feeling jilted

EW's GRADE
B-

Details Release Date: May 13, 2011; Rated: R; Length: 96 Minutes; Genres: Comedy, Drama; With: Will Ferrell; Distributors: Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

Will Ferrell, blithe impersonator of obtuse elves, TV anchormen, and former presidents, is not the first actor one thinks of to play Nick Halsey, an alcoholic wretch on a bender, in the sober indie drama Everything Must Go. On one rock-bottom day, Nick is fired from his sales job and his wife leaves him, having first changed the locks and piled all his possessions in their suburban front yard. The sight of indoor stuff splayed outdoors may be absurd. But there is nothing at all funny about the pathetic mess Nick continues to make of his life. And Ferrell, whose vaguely uncomprehending onscreen stare usually signals amusing male cluelessness to come, upends expectations from the very first scene, as Nick sits in his car, locked in a traffic standstill and palpably unable to endure the stress without a pull on his liquor flask. With characteristic physical fearlessness, the actor becomes a downward-spiraling alcoholic. No joke.

It's a terrific performance — one that's unmatched by the rest of the movie, written and directed by Dan Rush. Based on Raymond Carver's notable short story ''Why Don't You Dance?,'' Everything Must Go is a sweetened-up, padded-out scenario of hope cracking through a drunk's despair. Rush's background as a director of commercials is evident in his feature-film debut: Everything and everyone look 10 degrees softer and more composed than they need to be.

Carver's original minimalist story goes down in two gulps: The drinking guy sells his stuff to a young couple passing by. The end. Rush's adaptation skips the young couple, expands the yard sale, and adds a cop who's Nick's AA sponsor (Michael Peña). There's also: a lonely black kid who becomes Nick's protégé (Christopher Jordan Wallace); an old high school classmate (Laura Dern, in a fine, subtle, self-contained scene) who assures Nick that he really does have a heart; and a neighbor across the street (Rebecca Hall) who's pregnant. Despite Nick's worst, hurtful behavior toward her, she's willing to extend a kind of forgiveness. Ferrell, for his part, looks like he would have no problem going even deeper and darker than Rush could bear. Like Bill Murray and Greg Kinnear before him, this funnyman reveals serious acting chops. B–

Originally posted May 11, 2011 Published in issue #1155 May 20, 2011 Order article reprints

More Summer Movies

Photo Gallery Movie scenes that make YOU cry

''Ghost'' to ''Steel Magnolias'' to ''Dumbo'' -- moments you say get you reaching for a hankie every time

Summer movies: Leading ladies!
by EW Staff

Women who'll bring the heat to the multiplex this season, from new faces to longtime fan faves

Photo Gallery: Summer Movie Guide 50 most vile movie villains
by EW Staff | May 17, 2013

Jury's out on Benedict Cumberbatch's hush-hush ''Star Trek'' character; where would YOU put him on our ultimate list of cinematic baddies?

Photo Gallery 49 unforgettable nude scenes
by EW Staff | Nov 01, 2010

Stacy Martin and Shia LaBeouf in ''Nymphomaniac''; see others who've disrobed for a role

Advertisement

Today's Most Popular

  1. Photo Gallery: American Music Awards 2014 American Music Awards '14: We grade the performances
  2. Photo Gallery: American Music Awards 2014 American Music Awards 2014 style: What the stars wore

From Our Partners