Loosely based on a short story by Raymond Carver, Dan Rush’s Everything Must Go (2010) follows the fortunes of an alcoholic salesman, Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell), who loses both his job and his wife on the same day. Nick is a high-powered salesman but his frequent lapses, drunken antics, and the weeks he’s had to take off in recovery have taken their toll. The film opens with Nick being fired after sixteen years of service and presented with a Swiss Army penknife as his leaving present, which he promptly sticks into the tyres of his boss’ Mustang.
On arrival home, Nick discovers his wife has left home, changed the locks and dumped all his possessions on the front lawn. She’s also put a stop on their joint account and cancelled his credit cards. When the firm reclaims his corporate car and mobile phone, Nick is left with nothing except his memories.
He spends the next few days, sleeping outside, drinking beer, meeting the neighbours and ruminating on his lot. Nick is befriended by Kenny, a lonely neighbourhood kid who wants to learn how to play baseball and offers to help him sell his stuff. When the beer finally runs out, Nick is forced to confront his shattered life and to make a new start.
One of the most memorable scenes in Everything Must Go has Nick visiting Delilah (Laura Dern), a friend from high school who he has not seen for twenty years. She lives on the outskirts of town, and is bringing up two small children on her own. Life has not been particularly kind to her either, we realise, when she recalls the highlight of her acting career – an advertisement for Japanese television in which she co-starred with Brad Pitt. Like Nick, whose best memories are of his sporting prowess when young, she failed to live up to her early promise and both fall back on recollections of these happier times to sustain them.
Nick also connects with Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a young pregnant woman, newly moved in across the road, who is waiting for her husband to join her. In the course of their tentative friendship, they both teach each other valuable lessons.
There is humour in Everything Must Go, mainly in Nick’s cynicism and witty retorts to his detractors but, despite this comic gloss, it is the film’s darker side that remains with you. Alcoholism is an illness and this is brought forcefully home when Nick is reduced to begging for beer on the street. Although there is an upbeat resolution to Rush’s version of Carver’s tale, there is also the implicit suggestion that Nick may not yet have found his feet and maybe never will.