I like when comedic actors do serious roles, especially when they’re such a tonal and characteristic departure from what we’re used to seeing that you get to view the artist in a completely new light. Dan Rush’s Everything Must Go is a sensational indie drama that focuses on a mostly dead serious, unbelievably restrained Will Ferrell as Nick, an upper middle class fellow who is also a relapsing alcoholic and whose life is starting to spin dangerously out of control. After several pretty bad alcohol related incidents at work he arrives at his home in the Arizona suburbs to find his wife has left him, changed all the locks and dumped his belongings all over the lawn. Feeling pretty much at rock bottom, he stocks up on booze, posts up on his lawn and cracks open a tall can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, his drink of choice and the first of many. This is where much of the film finds him, just sitting in his yard amidst a maze of personal stuff that he attempts to sell in an impromptu ongoing yard sale with the entrepreneurial assistance of a local kid (Christopher Jordan Wallace). Various folks in his life try to do their best to help him including his cop buddy and former AA sponsor (Michael Pena) and the sympathetic pregnant homemaker (Rebecca Hall) across the road, while he makes his best effort to connect with them and with a former high school sweetheart played by Laura Dern who blesses the film with a brief but luminously earnest cameo. This is a pretty bleak film that focuses on someone who has nearly lost everything in life, it’s not an area of human experience the we or cinema overall likes to dwell on but think of the thousands of everyday people going through this sort of thing whose voices remain unheard, and the countless others who have made it through such a life altering addiction and it’s subsequent personal ramifications and how viewing a film like this may give them further hope and inspiration. Ferrell is a revelation as Nick; gone is his wacky, wild eyed persona and any moments of comedy to be found here are of the subtlest, driest variety, the kind of laughs that hurt on the way out. Everything that’s happened to him is essentially his own fault, but that didn’t stop me from caring about him deeply and wanting him to make it through his rough time intact, or noticing that underneath the mess his life has become, he’s a bright, sweet guy with a slightly dimmed but nevertheless good outlook on life and a kind, open heart. Just observe how he cares for the kid he’s hired to sell his stuff, or does his best to treat Rebecca Hall’s character with respect and kindness, even when his drinking and jaded mental perspective make it difficult to do so. There’s a scene near the end of the film which I don’t want to spoilt too much except to say that she gives him a gift, a small token that is profoundly resonant and reflective of the brief, unorthodox but very important piece of time they have shared together by pure happenstance, and it’s the emotional core of the whole thing: one human being doing their best to comfort and lift up another who has fallen on perhaps the hardest times they’ll ever see. This is an uncommonly emotionally intelligent film with a career best performance from Ferrell who is about as committed, grounded and heartbreaking as he’ll ever be in his career and a fleeting glimpse into the life of someone you might hurry past on your way, divert your gaze when they meet yours or speed up in indirect shame as you drive past and see him on that lawn, can of PBR in hand, surrounded by broken materialistic dreams. But his story, countless others just like it and the human beings in them are just as important as any others, and it’s life affirming to see a filmmaker tackle one with such compassion, honesty and empathy. Great film.

-Nate Hill

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