Thursday, May 26, 2011

Everything Must Go (2011) – Review

Review: Everything Must Go is sad and depressing, yet somewhat hopeful. It is a story of a life mired in destructive tendencies, but with the longing for redemption. First time writer-director Dan Rush approaches the disheartening story with a heavy tone (maybe too heavy), but the subject matter – a man whose life is crumbling around him due to his drinking – is burdensome and deserves a serious take. Rush uses humor (I mean, he has the talents of Will Ferrell after all), but there is not enough to dissipate the overall feeling of depression that accompanies the piece – which would be fine, though this is not a full on tragedy and not quite a comedy either. It fits in the indie film notch of being more like real life than typical Hollywood fair. The ending is fairly open ended; the individual viewer can take what they want from it, pinning a happy or unhappy ending on (beyond the narrative’s ending, which nicely closes the character’s journey for this story). Rush does a good job with his characters, as we get a sense of who all these people are (even with limited screen time, something that has been lacking in other films I have seen lately). And, the narrative structure is sound. The problem of the film arises from its tone. It is just slightly too melancholy for a dramedy (that having Farrell suggests the film to be). There are not enough light moments; and though there is a sense that the character is on the right path, the viewer is left with a sense that maybe it will not be ok (again playing into the indie realism style for narrative films). Having Farrell (with his strong comedy background) as the protagonist aligns the viewer’s expectations for a lighter tone, with funny moments. And while there is some humor, the film is not light. It tackles the topic and is unflinchingly honest about it, but Rush and Farrell approach the character of Nick from a non-violent angle (which is not common with alcoholics, and works well for this film). His behavior is just as destructive, but it is more heartbreaking, as he seems like an otherwise nice guy who has just been put upon. But Rush is wise not to let excuses overshadow and justify Nick’s behavior. All in all, Rush has made a good film – the tone is just too bleak given the lead and audience expectations that arise from the lead. A little more humor and a slightly lighter tone would have helped this film immensely. As it is, the tone slows down the narrative and seriousness of the story (which it probably needed to be despite what I think) detracts from the overall enjoyment of the film. Everything Must Go has just enough hope to let the audience off the hook and allow them to leave the film with some potential happiness, but not a lot.

Technical and acting achievements: Dan Rush shows with this film that he has the potential to be a very good director. He has the narrative storytelling tools. Everything Must Go is just a difficult first film tonally to get right. Aesthetically, the film has a very naturalistic look and feel to it, which goes hand-in-hand with the story and character’s realism. Cinematographer Michael Barrett uses natural light almost exclusively (and does very good work) and production designer Kara Lindstrom’s sets and design take advantage of the film’s locations (I also like the fact that the set design and props used in the scenes on Nick’s lawn tell a story about who he is).Composer David Torn’s score is low key and reinforces the disparaging tone. The cast is very good – each buying into the naturalist approach. No one is over acting or exaggerating their characters, even Will Farrell. Laura Dern and Michael Pena have small roles, but their good work helps shape the narrative. Christopher Jordan Wallace is very good in his first big role. His even and restrained manner and delivery play well off Ferrell. Rebecca Hall is a wonderful actress, and she continues to be amazing in almost everything she is in, including this. She is vulnerable, yet strong; funny, yet serious. She is able to engage the audience completely. Farrell does good work. He is fun at times, but is able to pull in his typical over the top hijinks and deliver a very believable performance, with just enough man-child to remind the viewer that it is still him.

Summary & score: Everything Must Go is maybe too real and too depressing, given that it stars Will Farrell, and thus lacking some entertainment, but it is still a good film. 6/10

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