November 1, 2011

November 1, 2011

In My Opinion: Everything Must Go

Will Ferrell received this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The Kennedy Center-hosted ceremony was taped last week and broadcast on PBS last night. If you didn’t catch it, I encourage you to look for the repeats. It’s PBS, so you KNOW there will be repeats. Though not as funny as last year’s event (feting Tina Fey), guests such as Conan O’Brien, Adam McKay, and Gwen Ifill (there’s that PBS thing again) got in some good lines.

Paul Rudd made passing reference to the film Everything Must Go, joking that Will was great in it even though no one saw it. Well, I saw it, and I really liked it. Then again, I also saw and liked Stranger Than Fiction, so perhaps I am just weirdly out there.

The film opens on a very bad, no good, horrible day for Nick Halsey. He loses his job. He goes home to find that his wife has left him, locked him out of the house, and thrown all his stuff on the front lawn. His car gets repossessed. His bank accounts are locked. His phone gets turned off.

Basically, this is a man with the clothes on his back, the money in his wallet, and a really big LP collection.

He sits on the lawn for a while, pondering what to do, until a neighborhood kid bikes by. Long story short: they become friends, and Nick uses the kid’s bike to make grocery runs to the local convenience store. That’s the short-term plan.

The long-term plan is to sell all his belongings and start fresh. If you see an overt metaphor there, well done! During the selling process, complications arise with the attractive neighbor lady, Nick’s cop friend, his former supervisor, and so on.

And now, some reasons I really liked this movie.

1. It didn’t have a happy ending. Call me cynical, but I firmly believe that things rarely work out. Probability just isn’t that friendly. In this film, Nick doesn’t reunite with his wife. He doesn’t get his old job back. He doesn’t even go out in a blaze of vengeful glory. Quiet desperation is the name of the game here.

2. Speaking of quiet desperation, Will Ferrell underplays this character in a really effective way. I know that subtlety is not a characteristic you typically associate with Ferrell, he of the “more cowbell” and the Old School streaking. Trust me: he can do subtlety, and he does it here. There’s something about the manic comedians that makes their calm roles more effective (see: Jim Carrey in The Truman Show).

3. It’s efficient. At 92 minutes, this film makes things count. I mean, I also recently saw Transformers 2: Electric Boogaloo, and I believe that film had 92 minutes of extraneous robot battle. Here, it’s about dialogue and character development. No narrative tricks, flashy bangs, or bangy flashes. In fact, I’d love to see this film done on stage. I think the limited number of characters and sets make it doable. It’s just that tightly executed.

0 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke: