It’s a pity Will Ferrell doesn’t make more movies like “Everything Must Go.” He’s really good at it, as the six people who saw the underrated “Stranger Than Fiction” will tell you, and he’s equally good here. The story is not the kind that will revitalize independent film, but it’s nice to see someone try to find the positive in a situation rife with sadness. Most indie movies work the other way around, which is why most people don’t bother watching them.
Nick Halsey (Ferrell) is not having a good day. He’s fired from his job as a sales executive for repeated alcohol problems, and when he gets home, he finds that his wife has moved out, changed the locks, and left his possessions on the front lawn. (She also froze his access to the joint bank accounts, and his cell phone service was canceled. Ouch.) While Nick deals with disapproving neighbors and the police – with a beer in his hand every minute of the day – he finds friendship in the form of Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace), a lonely boy whose mom cares for an elderly woman down the street, and Samantha (Rebecca Hall), the pregnant wife of a road warrior who recently moved in across the street. Eventually, he decides that the best way to a new start is to get rid of the past, so with the help of aspiring salesman Kenny, he holds a yard sale, and sells everything he owns.
This movie has been made thousands of times before, of course. The self-destructive protagonist with a heart of gold, the overlooked child with promise, the spunky new neighbor…it’s as if they came from an indie script cliché generator. Fortunately, director/screenwriter Dan Rush isn’t content to fill his movie with walking clichés. Wallace’s Kenny is uncommonly smart, but he’s not precocious, getting to the point in as few words as possible. Samantha seems unnerved when Nick finally opens up to her, but it’s not for the reasons one might initially suspect. If there is a cliché here, it’s the character that leaves his cell phone in the room with the person from whom he’s keeping a big secret. Who does that?
It’s easy to predict when the peaks and valleys of “Everything Must Go” will hit, but it remains quite likable despite the familiarity of the subject matter and the characters. Rush’s dialogue is refreshingly direct, and he coaxes solid work out of his cast. Could Will Ferrell be better suited for drama than Jim Carrey? Love for “The Truman Show” aside, it’s certainly starting to look that way.(3.5 / 5)