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Ten Word or less Review: Ferrell as an funny alcoholic.

Comedians defined by a certain persona eventually burn out on it.  Acting like the same semi-moronic jackass in one movie after another pays well but the desire to be artistically validated by those who traditionally loath or expect little from you eventually creeps into big name comedians.  Jim Carrey talked with his butt cheeks then made The Truman Show.  Adam Sandler inverted his man-boy rage shtick for Punch Drunk Love.  Even Bob Hope wanted to be taken seriously at one time.  Now Will Ferrell gives it a go at turning his well-worn comedic persona a serious slant.

In Everything Must Go, the Ferrell archetype is given a real life, straight shot makeover.  Ferrell plays Nick, a successful salesman with awards and accomplishments as well as a raging problem with alcohol.  After falling off the wagon one too many times he’s unceremoniously fired from his job.  As he arrives home on the same day he finds his wife has left him.  Not only does she leave, she changes the locks on the house, leaves for parts unknown, freezes their assets and places all of his material possessions on the front lawn.  With no money and nowhere to go, car gets repossessed, Nick begins to live on his front lawn.  With the neighbors annoyed and local law enforcement on his back he’s forced to sell his possessions to get them out of sight or face jail time.  Nick’s life has been building towards this for years but now it’s been paralyzed and dismantled in a matter of hours.

Everything Must Go is unapologetically material glum but it is an honest story with noble intentions.  For years Ferrell has portrayed boisterous morons who pound down brewskies and act like reprehensible scum but the audience has never been asked to seriously think about the repercussions of such behavior.  No one watching Talladega Nights wants to dwell on alcoholism and why should they.  They’re watching Talladega Nights for f’in sake.  But Everything Must Go, while sold as a quirky, charming indie comedy, is really an honest examination of an alcoholic losing his grip on things.  We watch Nick slowly but surely become more desperate and pathetic but our sympathies are with him.  Ferrell gives Nick a likeable and empathetic soul, laced with a sense of genuine sadness and lost opportunity.  It’s by far the most mature work, maybe only mature work, he’s ever done.  I never saw Stranger Than Fiction.

Alcoholism is dealt with rarely in movies and even more rarely is it this well observed.  Everything Must Go never lapses into hysterics or melodrama, instead choosing to focus on the small series of crippling crisis’s which befall people with addiction.  It may be ultimately be too low key for some but it’s the kind of sure handed effort few people go for these days.  There are sporadic giggles but pounding the funny bone with Ferrell madness is nowhere to be found.  Director Dan Rush deserves a lot of credit for not going for obvious story beats or baiting the audience with cheap pay offs.  Nick even sparks up a relationship with a lonely neighborhood kid, a situation which miraculously doesn’t feel contrived or trite.

Fans of human interest dramas will be surprised by Everything Must Go.  People who expect to see another Will Ferrell romp will be bored.  It is the kind of patient, small scale movie which sees the inside of theaters with increasing irregularity.  Only the presence of an actor like Ferrell make them possible anymore and it’s a pleasant surprise when they come off as well as this.  Maybe the borish Ferrell I never liked has finally evaporated.

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