Thursday, May 12, 2011
Is Will Ferrell the New Jack Lemmon?
Some Light in Dark Tale Starring Will Ferrell
By Skip Sheffield
Will Ferrell explores his serious side in “Everything Must Go.” You could call it a public service message that entertains.
Ferrell is Nick Halsey, a once hotshot salesman whom we meet on the worst day of his life. First he is fired by his much-younger boss. Then he goes home to discover the locks have been changed and all his possessions thrown out on the front lawn.
How does Nick respond to this calamity? He picks up a couple of 12-packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
Nick is a recovering alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon about as far as you can fall. His incensed and unseen wife has cancelled his credit cards and frozen his bank account. Nick’s car is repossessed. His only friend seems to be Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace), a chubby, lonely black kid who is kind enough to lend him his bicycle for trips to the mini-mart.
You could call this a contemporary “Days of Wine and Roses,” except it isn’t a married couple on the skids, just a sick, weak-willed man played by Will Ferrell.
Director Dan Rush expanded a bleak short story by Raymond Carter and lightened up its dire spirit. Ferrell can find comedy in the darkest places. Waking up to his front lawn’s automatic sprinklers splashing becomes a running joke. A grown man riding a child’s bicycle lugging 12-packs is a good sight gag, but there is nothing funny about alcoholism. Ferrell and his writer-director have the good sense to add fragments of hope to this forlorn character and his cautionary tale. Nick becomes a kind of mentor and father to Kenny, who has no dad. We learn Nick’s father was a raging alcoholic who abused his family.
Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a pretty, lonely and pregnant new neighbor across the street, sees beyond Nick’s pathetic situation. So does Delilah (Laura Dern), an old high school classmate who seems willing to overlook Nick’s shortcomings.
When we learn Nick’s A.A. sponsor, a local cop named Frank Garcia (Michael Pena) may not have Nick’s best interests at heart, we feel even more sympathetic toward the fallen man.
In short “Everything Must Go” is a downhill slide that stops short of falling off a cliff. Just it case we don’t get the message there is one of Bob Dylan’s finest songs, “I Shall Be Released,” to drive it home. It’s a remarkable dramatic turn by an actor who wants to do more than just make people laugh.