When I went to see this movie on a Saturday night, there were 8 other people in the theater besides me and my wife. The other people were mostly made up of folks who were big fans of other Will Ferrel movies like Anchorman or The Other Guys. You could just tell that they bought a ticket for Everything Must Go simply because they thought it was the latest Will Ferrel comedy about...well, who cares it's got Will Ferrel in it! A more fitting title might have been Everyone Must Go because by the end of the movie, the theater crowd had been whittled down to four besides me and my wife, as they each got up in disappointed huffs and left the theater.
Everything Must Go is a dramedy based on the short story by acclaimed American writer Raymond Carver. My wife had read the short story Why Don't You Dance, for which it's based on, but said it's vastly over-bloated from that; as is the case when a short story is turned into a feature film. The movie has no big stars in it besides Ferrel but you may recognize small parts played by Stephen Root (Office Space, No Country for Old Men), Laura Dern (Jurassic Park), Michael Pena (Crash) or Glenn Howerton (FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Again though, all these parts are very small and this movie is owned by Ferrel.
This is a tricky film to discuss because it has a lot to say and comes across as a very important character study. The problem is that it's just freaking depressing! It's essentially a 92 minute movie about an alcoholic slowly hitting his bottom over the course of a few days. Sure there is a positive catharsis about it in that when his wife kicks him out of the house and throws all his stuff out on the lawn, he starts to sell it all and it's a physical manifestation of him shedding his old self. The symbolism didn't get past me, which is a relief because it's really overt. It's just uncomfortable to watch since it's so not funny and so not super sad, so it just leaves you in this emotional purgatory suspended in between the two.
It also doesn't help that you don't feel bad for Ferrel's character. You can watch it and muster sympathy that everything in his life comes crashing down in just a couple days but all the other characters in the film feel no sympathy for him since they think he's an assh*le. And since they've known his character longer than you have, there's no other choice than to accept it. The only person in the film that met him in the same amount of time as the audience is a young teenager that lives down the street, who's played wonderfully and subtly by Christopher Jordan Wallace, who's never been in anything before but is the son of Notorious B.I.G.!
It's really not that Everything Must Go is a bad movie. It's simple and tear-jerking at the end. It offers a redemptive tone about not giving up, never looking back, changing your life and picking yourself up off the floor. The problem is that it's not funny enough to be worth watching for that and the main character is too unlikable to champion. It's more just like a snapshot of a few horrible, terrible days that leads to a jerk changing his life...but who wants to watch that?
Everything Must Go (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C