Greatly expanded from a four-page, single-situation story by Raymond Carver, Dan Rush's first feature is an ambitious if enervated vehicle for Will Ferrell—playing it straight as Nick Halsey, a middle-class drunk fired from his job and locked out of his suburban home by an irate, never-seen spouse on the same day. As in the Carver story, Halsey uses the belongings his wife has dumped outside to set up house on the front lawn. Halsey's public humiliation, complete with repossessed company car and suspended bank account, is barely mitigated by the police detective (Michael Peña) who happens to be his AA sponsor and who allows him a five-day grace period in which to operate an impromptu, highly metaphoric yard sale—compelled to re-evaluate his past in the light of a cataclysmic present. Everything Must Go, ostensibly set in Scotts-dale, Arizona, has a generic resemblance to broken-heartland movies like Up in the Air and Cedar Rapids, although this suburban meltdown is more depressed than either. In the final reel, Rush introduces a plot complication that, had the preceding hour been leaner, might have worked—kind of like the Titanic sinking to reveal an iceberg. Still, I can't dismiss the desperate social realism of a movie offering the solace of a bromide found in a fortune cookie.
Dern supplies some perk to Ferrell's downfall.
Opens at Guild 45 and Lincoln Square, Fri., May 13. Rated R. 96 minutes.