Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Man on Film: Everything Must Go

From the mounting queue of entries that need to be tended to, it probably makes the most sense to get this one out there, as it keeps with the theme of alcoholism ever-present in the subject of yesterday's entry on Charles Bukowski's Post Office.

Not to be confused with the superb Manic Street Preachers album of the same name (featuring this song),

Everything Must Go is an adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story ("Why Don't You Dance?") from the same collection that the Robert Altman masterpiece Short Cuts was culled from. Adapted and directed by first-timer Dan Rush, Everything Must Go stars Will Ferrell as Nick Halsey, a relapsed alcoholic whose drunken transgression set off a bender that led to being fired from his job and left by his wife. After getting fired, he heads home to find his belongings in the yard and locks having been changed. With his company car then repossessed, Nick finds himself essentially left with nowhere to go but his yard with the remnants of his old life sit displaced.

As the days pass, Nick finds friendship with a new neighbor from across the street and a boy whose mother is a home-care nurse down the block. The neighbor, Samantha, is played by the outstanding Rebecca Hall, who imbues her pregnant character with a pitch-perfect dose of vulnerability, compassion, and loneliness. Hall is riding an impressive streak of standout performances in The Town, Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974, and Frost/Nixon, and this one joins those ranks.

Christopher Jordan Wallace (son of The Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans) stands tall here as well. Ferrell plays well off of him, and their relationship definitely provides the film with its best humor.

As for Ferrell, he may not have the most dramatic range in the world, but for the most part he handles the role well. There are a few points in the film where his performance sticks out as being slightly off key, but there are no more than a handful.

As a whole, the film reminds me much of Steve Buscemi's feature-length directorial debut, 1996's Trees Lounge, a film I rather liked at the time. It definitely has the feel of a mid-90s indie dramedy, which one can take for whatever it is worth. There was a time when it seemed like I only watched films like Trees Lounge or The Low Life, so this may have struck a note with me that it would have missed with others.

If the movie does have a failing, it is that it woefully underutilizes Michael Pena's skills. While his role is more significant than Glenn Howerton's, there isn't much that he gets to do with it. Where Howerton's role sees him playing the prick former boss with aplomb, Pena is left to play what could be loosely termed a wet blanket. It is no fault of Pena's that the character is relatively uninteresting, but the conventional nature of his character's presence is disappointing given who's in it.

Without having read the short story that has been adapted here, I cannot speak to its comparison to the source material, but Everything Must Go is an enjoyable if slightly forgettable way to spend 97 minutes.

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