Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Everything Must Go

The ravages of alcoholism make for cinematic gold.  It's a fact, plain and simple.  Many a plot twist has centered around the terrible cycles of spree and remorse suffered by a boozy protagonist.  It's not surprising that Will Farrell would shine so brilliantly in this lovely portrait of a semi-functional alcoholic who is forced to come face to face with the realities of his lifestyle.  The premise of this simple, muted film would be funny, if only it wasn't so tragic.  Farrell has already proven his ability to crossover into dramatic acting after his role in Stranger Than Fiction, but die-hard Will Farrell fans still expect the easy genius of Farrell's improvisational dialogue made even more hilarious by his complete confidence in playing the most radical loser.  Everything Must Go is entirely different.  Its serious, but not preachy in anyway.  Its sad but you probably won't cry.  Its dramatic, but you will not be satisfied by a sense of closure. 
A basic synopsis: Farrell plays Nick Halsey a Regional Sales Manager in his 40's.  The film opens with Nick getting fired, not because of downsizing or poor performance, but because of repeated long term absences from work over the years for substance abuse treatment culminating in an apparently devastating binge incident while on a recent business trip.  Nick returns home to find everything he owns on the front lawn of his beautiful suburban home; wife gone, locks changed, car repossessed, cell phone disconnected and bank accounts frozen.  After a trip to the local store to stock up on beer, Nick camps out amongst his worldly possessions, nowhere to turn but inward.  Insightful relationships with neighbors act as a catalyst for forward momentum as well as provides back-story and depth to Nick's character.  The heartbreaking feature of this film is the miraculously underplayed tragedy of Nick's circumstances.  It's obvious from scene one that Nick is a nice guy who when drunk finds himself in trouble - the problem is Nick can't go a full day without drinking.  The only solution is to sell what he possesses and try to move on with his life, alcohol free. 
There are many moments of subtle beauty and intelligence in this film.  Farrell revises his famous George Bush accent to a slight Texan twang, having an effect which is two fold: 1) This reminds the audience that he is a comedian who successfully satirised a controversial public figure and 2) a play on the former presidents famous alcoholism.  Nick befriends another lost soul of sorts in a young husky kid who has nothing to do but wander around the neighborhood all day on his bike.  Putting him to work on his "yard sale" Nick is no doubt a defeated yet generous and lovable character. The real foe, alcoholism, becomes more of a character than a personality trait as Nick's innocence and befuddled bafflement are juxtaposed against inexperienced wonderment of an impressionable youth.
A cluttered living space is a reflection of a cluttered mind, or so the mystics say.  Everything Must Go is a visual dramatization of this spiritual truism.  Every morning Nick comes to in a disaster zone of his life.  Precious objects whose meaning have been long ago lost on him are strune about the lawn and a foggy reckoning of the events which led to his current predicament demonstrate a wise stylistic choice.  In this obvious state of chaos, the viewer is asked to care for a man so broken that life on the lawn is a reasonable alternative to "normal".  A brilliant and subtly sobering film, Everything Must Go is another great Will Farrell endeavor as well as an honest, unsparingly real portrait of American desperation in the quest for normalcy and the wrenching nature of alcoholism.        

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