If he isn't careful, Will Ferrell is going to become a bona fide actor.
The loudmouthed comedian isn't there yet. He's still more at ease clowning in his underpants than shedding a tear.
Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, a salesman whose career is slowing but whose drinking has not. After losing his job, Halsey comes home to find his belongings on the front lawn, the locks changed and his wife gone, having filed for divorce.
The film touches on what got Nick in this mess — he fell off the wagon and into bed with another woman — but it makes only glancing references to the infractions.
Based on the short story Why Don't You Dance by Raymond Carver, Everything shies from the bombastic confrontations of many tales of addiction. If anything, first-time filmmaker Dan Rush, who wrote the script, has made a film so subtle that it borders on the laconic.
The setup — after discovering his evicted items, Nick camps on his front lawn and puts his belongings up for sale — could have been fodder for Ferrell to become the Everyman Jackass he has played so well before.
About the movie
Everything Must Go
* * * out of four
Stars: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall,
Director: Dan Rush
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Rating: R for language and some
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Opens in select cities Friday
Here, though, Rush keeps Ferrell's sharp tongue nearly mute as he encounters a parade of neighbors he barely remembers, let alone knows.
We meet the pregnant Samantha (Rebecca Hall), whose husband has traits disturbingly similar to Nick's. Kenny (the wonderful Christopher Jordan Wallace) offers to help with the yard sale, in which Nick hopes to unload everything from his past, including booze.
It's a fine line that Rush walks, one that doesn't always work. Everything can careen from sobering to silly so quickly that it's hard to keep up. The relationship with Samantha rings a little Hollywood-esque.
The film finds surer footing in the relationship between Nick and Christopher. Rush gives Christopher the right mix of savvy and naivet to make him believable as a boy learning (along with his dazed neighbor) how to function in public.
As he did in Stranger Than Fiction, Ferrell displays surprising range when he ratchets down the volume. And he can't help it in this picture, where there are no villains, heroes or seismic changes in worldview.
Instead, we get an utterly restrained portrait of a man hoping to sell off his worldly goods along with his past. Most of it is worth the purchase.