Everything Must Go is a gem, a diamond in the rough. It’s a touching, and beautiful character study on real people, with real problems. You can go anywhere – and you’ll find someone who’s faced an alcoholic – and the effects it has on their personality, their relationships, and ultimately their life. Now, ask three people about divorce – statistics show that over 50% of couples end in separation. Since you’ve covered two dramatic issues, go outside and yell about the unemployment rate – or even worse, about the people who’ve been laid off from their job because of the recession. Finally, imagine facing all three devastating predicaments, in one day.
Well, that’s exactly what has happened to Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) in Everything Must Go. After one-too-many alcohol fueled episodes, Nick gets fired from his job as a sales executive – only to come back to his middle class home in Arizona and see that all of his possessions have been put on the front yard, the locks have been changed on the house, and his wife has disappeared – never to return his continuous phone calls.
His solution – or really the only legal option he has– is to hold a yard sale. With help from a seemingly lonely and conflicted new neighbor (Rebecca Hall) – and a young, business savvy (Christopher Jordan Wallace) child – Nick goes through desperate measures to reevaluate and perhaps change his immature lifestyle.
Based on a short story by Raymond Carter, Everything Must Go is deliberately paced to establish and develop the characters. Nick (Ferrell) is a good person – “that never changes”, says a friend from his High school days. Oddly enough, her brief words of wisdom are spot on. Nick is a good person. But like anyone in their lifetime, he’s made mistakes – some larger than others.
But you see, unlike so many modern day releases, Everything Must Go wraps you up in its story – and the constant hardships that come with the characters. Will Ferrell steps out of his over-the-top comedy act – and gives a restrained performance. The relationship he develops with this kid (Wallace) is realistic and heartwarming. He even brings the audience to a point where they want to break down and cry with his character- as you witness this man’s life slowly dwindle down the drain. The subtlety brought about by Ferrell’s performance is what makes Everything Must Go a triumph.
This is all accomplished by first time writer/director Dan Rush. He shows us a simplistic story – harnesses it into his own – and produces a deeply moving motion picture.
And you know what? Hardly any of it feels clichéd or forced. Rush lets his film transcend nicely by not creating plot points for sentiment or lines of dialect for pity. Sure, there’s a transformation in Nick’s character – but all of it is done with nuance and genuine compassion.
Everything Must Go leaves on a somewhat melancholy note. We see Nick finally paying his dues, respecting and giving back to those who’ve helped him through this dark time. But when The Band’s “I Shall Be Released” starts playing in the background, and the film morphs from engaging to moving, you can be rest assured that Everything Must Go is a brilliant picture. It ebbs and flows with authenticity and tenderness. And boy, like “I Shall Be Released”, it is beautiful.