Everything Must Go

Ah, the comedy crisis. What happens when you make your name as a gurning child-man, shoot to the top of the Hollywood LOL-osophere, revel in the unlikelihood of your on-screen love-interests and then wake after many years to discover the only roles being offered to you are the ones you’ve already squeezed all the juice out of? If you’re Jim Carrey, you make Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. If you’re Ben Stiller, you make Greenberg. Sadly though, if you’re Will Ferrell, you make Everything Must Go .

In a bid to get us entirely onside from the very beginning, (and presumably to stamp out any remaining memories of Year One), the sombre Everything Must Go opens with salesman Nick Halsey (Ferrell) entrenched in Bad Stuff. He’s just lost his job, he’s just lost his wife, his alcoholism is back, his bank account has been frozen, his phone has been disconnected, his locks have been changed and all his worldly possessions have been put onto his front lawn. And then his car gets taken. And he probably has a stomach-ache as well. “YOU SEE?” – you can almost hear Will Ferrell shouting – “YOU SEE HOW LITTLE COMEDY THERE IS?” Despite trying to remain vaguely tongue-in-cheek by throwing in the odd quirk (his job was to sell sales techniques to salesman. Selling sales, you see! That’s an unexpected career choice for a film character!) Ferrell’s usual comic charm is brow-beaten into boozy, unhappy submission as the mournful Nick gradually realises his wife aint coming home. But remember, this is acting. You’re not supposed to enjoy it.

Anyway, deciding simply to ride out this slow spiral into despair, Nick plonks himself down into his favourite chair, opens up a beer and waits for things to happen. Not much does. It’s the same for us, except we don’t get the beer. A couple of characters wander up occasionally in order to Make Nick See Things Clearly – a new pregnant neighbour who’s struggling with marital problems of her own, a friend who’s desperate to get Nick back on his feet (though not so desperate that he tries any technique except “leave him in the garden”), as well as the obligatory broken-home kid who eventually shows Nick the error of his lethargic ways. It’s just that after the deeply melodramatic opening (seriously, EVERYTHING is awful, everything everything so very awful), sinking slowly into cripplingly dull realism is just too severe a gear-change for an audience to ever really acclimatise to.

Everything Must Go‘s problem is that it mistakes banality for subtlety; wrapping itself up in its own smug sense of relatability, smothering any potential action and leaving you utterly frustrated. Will Ferrell Acting is fine. We all saw Stranger Than Fiction, it was actually quite good. But Will Ferrell Sitting In A Chair For An Hour And A Half reeks of the Emperor’s New Film. There are a couple of really nicely observed moments (a sequence where Nick seeks out a high-school crush only to realise too late the utter pointlessness of it is genuinely touching), but stringing together meaningless scene after meaningless scene does not create a film of any depth. The (presumably-intentionally) meandering narrative arc cruises past you without any real impact, as the occasional joke or well-timed exchange fizzes and dies, flattened by the over-arching desire to say something by saying nothing.

To be fair, it might be that fans of Sofia Coppola-esque flicks find the desperately slow pace worth riding out, and there’s no denying that the performances throughout are perfectly adequate. Will Ferrell et al do what they can with the lines they’re given, but all in all it’s simply too thin a tale to warrant any real attention. No matter what your feelings are about Will Ferrell when he’s not wearing velvet, it’s safe to say that by the lacklustre ending of Everything Must Go you’ll have humoured the humourless for long enough.

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