My personal favorite type of film is the character study. Now, from all of the character studies that I have seen I have observed a few key traits that make it good. First of all you need a phenomenal main performance, then comes the great supporting performance, the very minor but still interesting plot, an excellent script, and a worthwhile pay-off. Of these five things I would say that Everything Must Go has about one and a half of them. It definitely has the minor yet interesting plot, and it has a pretty good main performance along with one good supporting role. Other than that there are literally almost no redeeming factors to this film.
Everything Must Go tells the story of a successful working man (Nick) whose life deteriorates because of his alcoholism. He loses his job, his wife leaves him with all of his stuff on the lawn, he is kicked out of his house, et cetera. The main character in this film is played by Will Ferrell who has the capability to act well but rarely does it right. This is one of those films where he gets it mostly right. Although there are moment where his performance staggers a bit, he ultimately picks it back up and does a solid job.
During this downward spiral, Nick comes into contact with several supporting characters. The first of which is his new pregnant neighbor across the street who is waiting for her husband. This is where one of my problems begins. This film is a moving cliche. You have the woman who gave up her art for her husband, you have the main notable side character Kenny (Chris Wallace) whose parents aren’t around and just wants to learn baseball. Finally you have the good-then-bad friend. He is there for the main character sometimes, but in other instances he leaves him to drown. This character is Nicks sponsor, a police detective named Garcia. This character is just a terrible friend, and this is seen in his actions towards Nick. Here I thought sponsors were supposed to be there for the alcoholics. Apparently not.
The other main problem I had was the realism of the scenario and the relationships which manifests itself in the script and the writing. First of all, what alcoholic who has been through detox and rehab would so easily go back to alcohol at the first sign of trouble. Not only does he go back quickly but he actually has a flask waiting in his car. A recovered alcoholic would not tempt himself with liquor in his car. Additionally the ways in which alcoholism is put into dialogue is usually terrible. They treat the audience like an idiot. Rather than making us assume that he is the sponsor, they go out and say “I have not been a good sponsor for you, Nick.” It bothered the hell out of me. Also, you have the ending. After destroying his relationship with one person and becoming entirely dependent on alcohol again the main character just decides to stop out of the goodness in his heart and is forgiven. I won’t give anything away but based on previous events it is just ridiculous.
Overall the only things that this film has going for it is the quality performance by Ferrell, the supporting performance by Wallace, and the way some of the scenes are shot. For example the opening scene of this film and some of the ending fifteen minutes is the quality of a much better film. The opening introduction to the character is wonderful. It cuts between Nick making his way towards his flask and the one-on-one with his boss where he got fired. If the entire film was executed that well then this would easily be an eighty out of one-hundred film. But it’s not. It’s a solid C which comes in the form of: