It’s a harsh irony that hitting one’s personal low can ultimately be beneficial – the nadir providing a compass point from which to reconstruct one’s life.
Writer Raymond Carver experienced a re-set moment of his own, consumed by the alcohol he consumed and finding himself in the trough a commitment to drink can bring. With a lot of trial and effort – and the love of a good and caring person – he was able to drag himself out of the hole and ultimately reconstruct his life.
One of Carver’s works provides the premise for “Everything Must Go,” a grating, tearing look at a man raised to believe in fair play and the deep truth of baseball only to be beset by a cataclysmic series of failures and betrayals – only some of which are actually his fault.
For the 2010 film adaptation Writer-director Dan Rush introduces us to Nick Halsey (cock-eyed comedian Will Ferrell, sans cowbell) and shows us how life can quickly turn against us. We meet Nick on what we assume is the worst day of his life. Sitting in his car, pulling on a pocket flask, we see he’s been fired by an overbearing boss and he’s getting steadily more gassed, stopping at convenience stores for replacement 12-packs of Pabst before drunkenly embedding a personalized Swiss Army knife in the tire of his former boss’ car.
Things get worse upon his return home (a balmy Scottsdale, Arizona providing the backdrop), where he quickly learns his wife has left him, changed the locks to their home, and unceremoniously conveyed all his belongings to the front lawn for all to see. A melancholy, stuporous Nick decides to stick with the familiar and opts to take up an al fresco residence in his front yard, sinking into his recliner as his neighbors ogle him with suspicion.
Soon, Nick sees his car repossessed, his wife freeze their joint bank accounts and all hope dashed as he begins to run out of money and beer. He acknowledges the pregnant new neighbor across the street (Rebecca Hall), transferring to her remembrance of the life he has lost. A pudgy, friendless neighborhood boy named Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace of “Notorious”) pedals into his life, looking for pocket money and someone to teach him how to field ground balls, and Nick obliges.
Nick battles to save his vinyl records from his timed lawn sprinklers, showers from a garden hose, and scrounges for his next six pack, fending off the local cops sent out to get him out of his front yard.
“You know you need some help,” he’s told.
“I tried help,” he responds.
Spiraling, he resolves to offer his belongings in a yard sale, a strange assortment of neighbors turning out to bargain for 50 cent bottles of mouthwash and Nick turning the moment into a sales lesson for an admiring Kenny: “Let’s keep it at 50 cents and I’ll throw in this floss…”
Ferrell does a good job, shedding his standard shtick to expose a big, vulnerable human being pursued by demons both inner and external, crushed by yet another betrayal we don’t see coming, and gradually pulling himself out of the hole many of us will fall into at some point in our lives.
MPAA rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Cast: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Stephen Root, Michael Pena, Laura Dern
Credits: Written and directed by Dan Rush, based on a Raymond Carver short story.
Where to See It: Most streaming services, but currently free on YouTube.