In EVERYTHING MUST GO, Will Ferrell plays a muddled man whose life has collapsed around him, leaving him to choose whether to be buried by the wreckage or to dig his way out.
The idea for the movie, written and directed by Dan Rush, was inspired from on a Raymond Carver short story “Why Don’t You Dance? “. Carver was an alcoholic who lost most of the things in his life and then found them again through recovery and the love of his wife, the poet Tess Gallagher.
In this low-budget, character-driven indie, Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, a salesman struggling with alcoholism. On the day we meet him, he’s a top executive who is in the midst of getting fired for the latest alcohol-fueled incident with a female client. After working out some of his frustration on the tires of the guy who axed him, Nick returns to his Phoenix, Arizona, home to find the locks on his house changed, his possessions dumped on the lawn and a note from his wife saying their marriage is over. With no car, his bank account frozen, his credit cards don’t work, he has nowhere to go.
Nick deals with this by buying some beer and and settling into his La-Z-Boy recliner. Life, to say the least, is a mess. They say you need to find your bottom before you’re likely to stop. Every bottom is different. Nick finds his bottom on the front lawn of his house, along with his furniture, his clothing, his keepsakes, and his life as a man whose wife has left him. He decides to live on his lawn with his stuff. Instead of Herculean swigs of liquor, Nick uses his dwindling funds on cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon, trying to keep enough of a buzz going to deaden the pain of his predicament until he eventually falls asleep.
Of course life won’t let him alone. Neighbors complain. There’s the new neighbor moving in across the street, a very pregnant fine-art photographer named Samantha (Rebecca Hall) who is awaiting her husband. There are the random strangers who stop by to pick through the stuff Nick is not yet ready to sell. There’s his AA sponsor, Det. Frank Garcia (Michael Peña), who buys him a few days to take his stuff and his life somewhere else before vagrancy laws kick in. Nick also spends some time with a high school classmate (Laura Dern) whom he looks up after perusing one of his old yearbooks.
Then there is a latchkey kid whose mother works in the neighborhood, Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) who’s biking back and forth as he considers Nick’s condition. Kenny asks the obvious questions and enters into a tacit understanding to become Nick’s business partner in the yard sale. Within the casual exchanges that come from these very basic human interactions, we begin to piece together what happened to Nick.
EVERYTHING MUST GO: Written and directed by Dan Rush, based on the short story “Why Don’t You Dance?” by Raymond Carver; director of photography, Michael Barrett; edited by Sandra Adair; music by David Torn; production design by Kara Lindstrom; costumes by Mark Bridges; produced by Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey; released by Roadside Attractions. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes.
WITH: Will Ferrell (Nick Halsey), Rebecca Hall (Samantha), Michael Peña (Frank Garcia), Christopher Jordan Wallace (Kenny Loftus), Glenn Howerton (Gary), Stephen Root (Elliot) and Laura Dern (Delilah).