Everything Must Go

Get ready for Will Ferrell like you've never seen him. As Nick Halsey, a salesman who's lost his job, drowned his sorrows and driven his fed-up wife to leave their suburban home, lock him out and toss his belongings on the front lawn, Ferrell delivers a performance of implosive intensity that rings true in every detail. Even in comedies — think Old School, Anchorman, Talladega Nights and The Other Guys — Ferrell shows the instincts of a true actor, never getting laughs at the expense of character.

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Everything Must Go, deftly adapted from the great Raymond Carver's short story "Why Don't You Dance?" by first-time feature director Dan Rush, breaks new ground for Ferrell. He's as low-key as the movie that surrounds him. Rush's camera watches Nick sit out his exile in a lawn chair, mostly kibbitzing with Kenny, a chubby neighborhood kid played with acute timing and sensitivity by Christopher Jordan Wallace (son of R&B star Faith Evans and the late rapper Biggie Smalls).

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Nick's cop friend Frank Garcia (the excellent Michael Peña) buys him five days to sort his head out as long as he runs a yard sale. Nick intersects with new neighbor Samantha (Rebecca Hall) and has a poignant encounter with Delilah (Laura Dern), a friend he hasn't seen since high school. But basically Everything Must Go is a one-man show in which Ferrell plays a growing species of American castoff. There's no begging for tears for Nick; Rush keeps his film rigorously unsentimental, but Ferrell opens a wound and makes it impossible for us to ignore it.

From The Archives Issue 1131: May 26, 2011
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