Everything Must Go
Last week, in my critique of “The Beaver,” I bemoaned the state of what I termed “multiplex fare” (which, believe me, becomes increasingly worse the closer we get to summer). During the past week I went to see “Everything Must Go” which stars Will Ferrell. Ferrell, a popular comedy star of TV and film, is responsible, in part, for the state of “multiplex fare” about which I complain. So, imagine my surprise in seeing a Ferrell movie, in a multiplex no less, and finding it to be observant and incisive. Ferrell manages to play a straight, non-smirking, dramatic role and keeps his clothes on for the entire movie (the latter not being something at which he always succeeds).
What I liked about “Everything Must Go” was its ability to set up situations which would seem predicable (translation: crowd pleasing) in a “multiplex” movie and then subvert them. What I am getting at is the difference between multiplex and art house movies.
The story is based on “Why Don’t You Dance?” a short story by Raymond Carver. Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, who is having the worst day imaginable. He has just been fired from his job and, upon arriving at his house, discovers that his wife has changed all of the locks and put all of his belongings out on the front lawn. On top of that Nick’s company car is repossessed and his cell phone turned off.
Nick is stuck living on his lawn, interacting with his neighbors who, he discovers, have stories and issues of their own. The device of a man living on his lawn, along with the items that comprise his life, displays the suburban angst and quiet desperation of which Carver is quite proficient at conveying.
Nick develops a friendship with Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) a young African American kid who wants to learn how to play baseball. At this point I felt I was way ahead of the story. I mean how many movies have we seen where the minority character needs the help of a white character in order to succeed? Cue the training sequence and then end the movie at the Big Game where everyone is healed and all is restored. I checked my watch. But no. “Everything Must Go” has a narrative for this relationship that is thoughtful and not predictable.
The other dramatic question the story poses is “Will Nick reconcile with his wife, or at least find an understanding girlfriend?” Again the film finds a resolution that is real, not “multiplexed” and sobering.
The AMC Empire multiplex, on 42nd Street near 8th Avenue, seemed to be hedging its bet by placing “Everything Must Go” at the top of its mountainous, 25 screen theatre, which requires the agility of a mountain goat, plus the use of an oxygen mask, to reach. OK there is an elevator and escalator but that’s not the point. AMC wants to show this movie but they stick it at the top of the theatre because they are not expecting much in the way of box office. Yes, it’s a Ferrell movie, which will attract the multiplex crowd, but how many of Ferrell’s fans want to see a movie based on a story by Raymond Carver? The results, for the marketability of this movie and others of its ilk, should be most interesting.
Everything Must Go, director Dan Rush, 2011,
Road Side Attractions, 97 minutes