Film Review: ‘Everything Must Go’

Like the life of Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell), the central character round whose mid-life crises Everything Must Go (2010) revolves, the directorial debut from Dan Rush ambles about with no real direction. Even solid – all be it brief – support from Laura Dern and a sympathetic performance from Rebecca Hall cannot save this tiresome study of broken relationships from wallowing in its own self-pity.

Things aren’t going well for Nick Halsey (Ferrell). Fired from his job due to his ongoing love affair with alcohol, he arrives home to discover his wife has called time on their marriage due to the same problem. She has emptied all Nick’s worldly belongings onto their front lawn and changed the locks on the house, before disappearing and refusing to answer his phone calls.

Despite help from Samantha (Hall), a sympathetic new neighbour, and a chance meeting with Delilah (Dern), an old school flame, it takes au unlikely friendship with Kenny Loftus (Christopher Jordan Wallace) a lonely kid who helps him run a yard sale to sell his belongings, to eventually make Nick pull himself together.

The real problem with Everything Must Go is the length. Apparently the film’s premise was derived from the short story Why Don’t You Dance? by Raymond Carver, the American master of that literary subset – and it shows. Two thirds of the way in, what might have made a mildly diverting television play, begins to induce more yawns than laughs. By the end of ninety minutes you, along with most of the cast, wish that Halsey would move on with his life and put everyone out of his misery.

There is also an overriding sense of lost opportunities – namely that we don’t see enough of the fantastic supporting cast, which may just have saved the film. Dern is given woefully insufficient screen time as one of Ferrell’s childhood sweethearts with whom he tries to hookup again. Just as you are enjoying her in what is to all intents a cameo, she is gone. Hall, though appearing for slightly longer, also seems subsidiary to Ferrell, in what is really a vehicle to display his talent (he clearly hopes) for straight roles.

However it is Christopher Jordan Wallace as Loftus, the lonely boy who latches onto Halsey eventually helping him to turn his life about, who is the real star of the show. Perhaps Ferrell didn’t want to have to share too much screen time with Wallace, as the kid outshines everyone and everything when he as much as shows his face.

A poignant scene during the yard sale, where Halsey finds that Loftus has placed a price tag of 50 cents on his wedding photo framed in broken glass and gives him a wry smile as if to say his estimated price is just about right, sums Everything Must Go up. Namely, that no amount of alcohol – nor extended screen time – can lessen the pain of being stuck in something which no longer holds any interest for you.

Cleaver Patterson