As far as Will Ferrell comedies go, Everything Must Go is probably the most un-Ferrell like comedy to date. And as far as compliments go, that is pretty much it.
As far as Will
Ferrell comedies go, Everything Must Go is
probably the most un-Ferrell like comedy to date. And as far as compliments go,
that is pretty much it.
Ferrell is an extraordinarily popular comic performer, yet
his performances have rarely showed much diversity other than just crude
buffoonery. It will be somewhat baffling to fans of Ferrell’s “frat” comedy
that Everything Must Go is
alternatively a quirky, dark humoured and independently spirited type of film.
It’s an interesting career move but unfortunately there is little to be found
in either Ferrell’s performance or the film itself to suggest that this will be
a successful one.
Adapted from one of Raymond Carver’s short stories titled Why
Don’t You Dance?, a computer salesman, Nick, is fired from his job due to his
problems with alcohol as well as his involvement in an unspecified incident on
a business trip in Denver. When Nick returns home after losing his job, he
finds his wife has left him, changed the locks on their house and thrown all
his worldly possessions onto the front lawn. Rather than dealing with the
problems at hand, Nick prefers to drink cases and cases of beer until he passes
out on his barcalounger. After his bank account is frozen, Nick is forced to
sell his stuff in order to keep the beer flowing. With the help of a local kid
who is keen to learn how to play baseball, Nick puts on a yard sale to raise
money and as a way of starting his life afresh.
This sort of ‘slacker come good’ comedy is neither original
nor even remotely contemporary. Noah
Baumbach’s Greenberg worked on the
similar premise of a socially awkward slacker attempting to piece his life
together. As Greenberg, Ben Stiller
played a character that is recovering from a breakdown. As Nick, Ferrell is an alcoholic
attempting to recover his life. On the surface it appears that Ferrell is
following Stiller with the ‘look what else I can do’ role in an independent
comedy-drama. The only problem is, Greenberg
was a no-good film with a contemptible, unlikeable character at its heart
and Everything Must Go suffers from
much the same problem.
While there are some attempts made to bring an emotional and
intellectual side to the film, Everything Must Go only treads upon the things you hate about offbeat, quirky
comedies. Slow and meaningless discussions about life’s failings are only
tedious to the point of exasperation and unlikeable central characters with
whom you are meant to empathise only kill the film stone dead. While the
message of the film is attempting to be life-affirming and optimistic, the
result is a feeling verging on utter depression as one bland joke after another
tanks to crushing silence.
One element that separates Nick from the utterly detestable
Greenberg is that Nick is somewhat hard done by after having his bank account
frozen, kicked out of his house and somewhat wrongfully dismissed from his job.
But as is always the problem with these ‘life problem’ comedies, the moaning
and groaning of over-privileged characters is boring and more importantly, not
funny in the slightest.
One of the least likeable elements of Everything Must Go is its intellectual tone. Feeling like
you’re being lectured to in what is supposedly meant to be a comedy is more
than just a minor annoyance. Like most independent films, it is well shot and
constructed but, as swathes of self-indulgence intervene, there is a sense that
the filmmakers actually believe they are making a profound existential comedy.
As if the great visual poet Terrence
Malick had suddenly decided to make a comedy.
Both Rebecca Hall
and Laura Dern do their best to
inject some life into this pretty sterile affair but ultimately they are
fighting a losing battle. It’s disappointing that after longing for Ferrell to
do something other than play a loud, obnoxious idiot, when he finally does
something else, you kind of wish he hadn’t. And wanting Will Ferrell to do his
usual crass performance for even the most remote resemblance of a joke, is
indicative of how Everything Must Go is
utterly barren of laughs rather than a barrel full of them.