There is sadness in every obnoxious comedian. That is the trend that very well existed in the film world when I grew up back in India. It might not necessarily be true but seeing Adam Sandler in “Punchdrunk Love” and now seeing Will Ferrell in “Everything Must Go”, one might begin to believe that because they embody that sadness with a look and form that makes it seem so easy to enact.
Will Ferrell is Nick Halsey, a successful salesman who has slipped in his sobriety to lose his job and wife on the same day. You know how you talk yourself into things you will regret doing? I think it works terrifically well for alcoholics. Their misery feeds their addiction. We never see his wife and listen to Nick’s voicemails to her. She has been sober we learn and she just cannot move on with Nick’s drunkenness. Sexual encounter with another woman that caused his unemployment does not help in her staying either. As much as we hate her for leaving his stuff on the yard, changing the locks and freezing the bank account, there is a harsh justifications to those actions. May be that is why Nick is not all mad at his wife despite his rock bottom situation.
Nick begins his descent into chain drinking further and his days begin when the sprinklers turn on. Dan Rush’s film is a slow but thorough exercise in a man’s lowest point and it keeps getting lower. The rock bottom is not there when you know you have crossed it. Nick seem to have accepted this and the eventuality is death because there appears to be no turning back. Yet we see hope when the basic human instinct is to communicate and connect. Nick does with two people. One is a young boy Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) in the neighbourhood who has nothing but time to kill while the other is his new neighbour Samantha (Rebecca Hall).
In between these two Nick develops empathy rather than sympathy. Both of them sees through him yet keeps it cool. Nick has lot to offer. A successful man who made a good life for himself is slowly throwing away those. It is quite tough to do nothing especially when you are exposed like Nick is out in the yard as people watch and wonder. Kenny immediately goes further and enquires. Soon enough both of them begin to have a conversation. Samantha is pregnant and new to the area only to be left aloof by her husband. Nick sees through her which shows his ugly face in the end. Samantha is cautiously compassionate.
Such is most of the characters who wants to be help Nick but knows he is in deep dark place. One such is Delilah (Laura Dern), a high school girl who wrote something nice about Nick when he brushes through his year book. He decides to contact knowing the absurdity of it. She sees him and knows something is odd yet goes forward within the boundaries of her compassion. In the end they both leave with something in their heart.
“Everything Must Go” is the kind of film that does not drench in the sadness of its central character. We feel lightheaded in the despair he carries. We understand him as he understands himself of his situation and consequences of his actions. That is part that makes it a better film and most of all say lot about Ferrell’s ability in acting which is that he knows every step of the way of why he is in a rut. There is a constant acknowledgment in the way Nick presents himself in the few days we observe him after his worst day in his life.
I was reminded of one of my favourite films “The Station Agent” which has a central character living his life in sadness and isolation because of his appearance and of no fault of his. There we see another connection with a cheery guy who cannot leave him alone and a mother in grief needing a shoulder to rest. “Everything Must Go” while in no way is similar to the characters or the story line has the connections in common. It shines on the fundamental fact of humans to connect and move on if they want to by any way they can, even in the most depressing state.
The film meditates on the depression. The mannerisms Ferrell brings forth through Nick though casual and effortless makes not alone to see this man go into spiral but see his life draining in his eyes in giving up. It is a shame when you know the capability of these comedians in delivering impressive performances not completely embrace more than they should. Sandler gave up completely after his “Reigh Over Me” while people like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey went that mile. Now here is Ferrell who is every bit capable to providing serious roles and come out convincingly. His Anchorman 2 would be hilarious and I am sure he enjoys doing those but occasionally I would love to see him in roles like these.