Everything Must Go is based on a Raymond Carver story, “Why Don’t You Dance?,” but the real draw of the movie is: See Will Ferrell downplay it. I’m up for that so I liked Everything Must Go.
Nick (Ferrell) loses his job, comes home and finds his wife has left him, changed the locks and left all of his possessions in the yard. So Nick decids to have a yard sale, and he learns about himself as he lets go of his material goods.
Even though Nick isn’t a wild character like Ricky Bobby or Ron Burgundy, the movie is still funny. There are the slapstick laughs like the sprinkler system on the lawn, and some physical comedy like riding a child’s bicycle when Nick loses his car keys. They could cut a trailer of those Will Ferrell moments but that would be a lie.
The comedy is really about how simple problems escalate into a really bad situation for Nick. You sort of expect the standard divorce measures, but when the police come you’re like, “Good God, give this guy break. He may not be a good husband but let him sit on his lawn with his old clothes.” It’s clear Nick screwed his own life up but some punishments are just too much.
Okay, so a movie about a yard sale and a character coming to terms with his material life isn’t that big a deal. The Will Ferrell serious movie is. I think we like our comedians to succeed in different genres, like Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. Many have failed, including Ferrell’s previous attempts. So the mopey but not quite unlikeable Will Ferrell is good.
Ferrell goes dark. You thought watching Nick suck the last drops out of an empty can was a tragicomic joke. Wait until you see how desperate he gets for a beer. When Nick becomes mean to his neighbor Samantha (Rebecca Hall), he’s not lashing out in a hostile way. He’s just blunt and honest, but addressing touchy subjects.
Nick has heartwarming moments along the way too. His bond with the little kid Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) is sweet. It’s never “look at the cute kid who shows the adult the wisdom he’s lacking.” It’s just a relationship with someone who helps him. Haggling over the price for half a bottle of mouthwash is silly but it shows he has a little bit of pride in his possessions. The humor about the secret lives Nick sees through his neighbors’ windows is clichéd, but again the jokes aren’t the point of this one.
The story ultimately takes Nick to a good place so it’s not just Ferrell showing off how dark he can go. There’s just no convenient happy ending. He has to show a subtle amount of growth and that he does.