REVIEW: Everything Must Go

23 08 2011

I’m not quite sure who thought of casting Will Ferrell as the beleaguered everyman in the recessionary fable “Everything Must Go,” but the choice actually ends up working in unexpectedly pleasant ways.  It’s the perfect kind of art imitating life, one where the movie reflects the mindset of the actor and provides insight into their mindset.  It doesn’t distract from the story or the performance but makes for an interesting conversation point after the film stops rolling.  It gives us a glimpse of humanity itself as we can feel the juncture of character and actor in a non-invasive way, and with a movie like this celebrating the inherent decency of people in trying times, you couldn’t ask for much more.

Ferrell is definitely coming to one of those junctures in his career where things haven’t been going well, and they could soon balloon out of control if he doesn’t start making better movies.  The quality has gone down, and the audiences have been coming less and less.  Similarly, many Americans are finding themselves at a life juncture where things have gone from bad to worse thanks to the economy, and things could continue to go downhill.  Ferrell finds this connection with the audience and forms an easy rapport with them, despite playing a somewhat unlikable slob reeling from the world’s worst day.

If you think a double feature of “Semi-Pro” and “Land of the Lost” is agonizing, try losing your job and getting kicked out of the house by your wife in a matter of hours.  Now that’s pain.  Ferrell’s Nicholas Halsey is forced to face a new life, one where all of his possessions can be enumerated on the front lawn.  At first, he laments the hard times by kicking back in a La-Z Boy with can after can of PBR.

At times, Ferrell and the movie get a touch too self-indulgent in choosing to wallow in the pity and melancholy of the recessional spirit.  It’s perfectly understandable for people to be upset and downcast when their entire life suffers a massive setback like losing a job, but there are certainly many more emotions being felt than just those.  Even Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air,” the pinnacle of Great Recession cinema, was able to show this mix in the incredibly impacting downsizing scenes.  (Granted, this featured real-life unemployed workers re-enacting their moment of despair.)

But once the movie widens the lens and puts the past and future in perspective, it becomes a rather moving slice of zeitgeist.  With Nick’s life for sale on the lawn, it shines a light on what is really of value and worth in our lives nowadays.  With a fine-tuned script from Dan Rush, who also directed the movie, it hits some of the toughest issues of the day with respect and dignity while also celebrating the humanity that defines us in boom or bust.

All the actors bring their A-game, from Ferrell in the glum leading role to Rebecca Hall and Laura Dern in fantastic supporting roles.  There’s also the matter of Christopher Jordan Wallace, the 15-year-old who steals the show as Nick’s young companion who serves as an interesting mix of foil, comic relief, and poignancy.  As an ensemble, everyone is very much in sync with each other, which serves to elevate the already solid movie.  And by the time Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” appropriately plays at the end, you’ll feel the movie stirring your soul.  B+ / 

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6 responses

30 08 2011
Paragraph Film Reviews

Stranger Than Fiction. was the first time I had to question whether I’d underrated Ferrell, or he wasn’t trying hard enough. Sounds like he’s pulling the same schtick here, nice!

Can’t wait to see this after your review.

4 09 2011
5plitreel

This on my ‘to watch’- list but somehow it doesn’t feel that exciting to me. I mean I did enjoy Ferrel in Stranger than fiction, but I think that’s more of an exception to the rule than anything else.

9 09 2011
Fitz

Sounds great! I’ll be heading to the nearest Redbox. I had my doubts but it sounds like Stranger than Fiction Ferrell.

15 09 2011
Darren Howells

Hey, can’t find any contact info on your site – which I’ve just been enjoying. Can you locate mine on http://www.subtitledonline.com and drop me a message please?

16 09 2011
Sam Fragoso

Very happy you enjoyed it …. I’ve been seeing a lot of reviews on it since the DVD release.

Great film.

28 09 2011
Simon Jones

It would be great to see him take a step back. I think he could do really well in a stiffer role but he does very well with comedy. It is a shame to see people fall down a bit (Jim Carrey knows well)

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