The hapless are a bountiful crew, existing as they do, in cinematic terms, for entertainment rather than enlightenment purposes. Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is just such a man; on the day he loses his salesman’s job, he comes home to discover his wife has not only left him but also changed the locks and dispersed all his worldly possessions on the lawn.
Written and directed by Dan Rush, Everything Must Go (2010) is not illustrative in any constructive way; it’s the Portrait of a Man as Open Wound, into which misery is piled in the hope we will empathise en masse, even offering a chuckle as salt is poured into the gaping hole where Nick’s life once was.
The alcoholic Nick exists only to be put through the wringer or exhibited like a circus animal. His is a mighty fall from grace, but Rush is sure to provide him with companions in the form of neighbours to share this soul-searching period in which he takes up residence on his lawn with little option but to sell everything off to passing strangers.
There’s the chubby black kid, Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) who befriends him and whose bike is appropriated by Nick once creditors take his car from his possession leaving him immobile. There’s also the gorgeous new neighbour, Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a pregnant photographer setting up house whilst waiting for her husband to join her from interstate. Overlooking his curiously uninhabited street, Nick sits in his luxury recliner that acts like a psychiatric tool after a while as he opens up to Kenny and vents his spleen upon Samantha.
Rush has the audacity to lean on the sliver of a short story by Raymond Carver (about 4 and a half pages long) to falsify literary credentials for his project. The connection between this ‘source’ material and Rush’s film is so tenuous as to be non-existent. Casting Ferrell against type is an interesting move but that deadpan look, so deftly utilised for a slew of moronic man-child comedies, fails to generate even a random spark of believability in its pretence of a man wallowing in human misery.
The film’s feeble moral decree is faintly etched around a half-hearted resolution: Beware – drinking to excess will doom you and carve your ordered life into tiny pieces. Long before the final selloff, the twist in the tale, the cathartic gesture of parting gifts disguised as largesse, and the empty, shallow offering of a vapid motto inside a card, Rush’s film has well and truly run aground in a narrative cul-de-sac, where hopefully it’ll remain forever.