Is Everything Must Go another Recession Special? Not exactly. The image of newly fired salesman Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) sitting in his La-Z-Boy on his suburban front lawn, surrounded by his discarded personal effects, may seem at first like the intro to a tearjerker, but for us it brought to mind Peter Menzel’s photo book Material World: A Global Family Portrait.
In that thought-provoking 1994 volume, families around the world were asked to pile all their worldly possessions in front of their homes and pose for a photo with them. The African family from Mali owned a few pots, a bicycle, a radio, and a blanket. Sure enough, the American family’s assembled household items completely filled a cul-de-sac and resembled inventory day at the Wal-Mart.
Remember that as the tale of Nick Halsey unwinds. Turns out he was fired because of his chronic drinking, not because of the economy. As his bad day continues, he arrives home to find that his wife has thrown out his stuff, changed the locks on the doors, frozen all the bank and credit card accounts, and left town. Nick has just enough pocket money for two six-packs of beer. He is joined by another cast-off character, Kenny Loftus (nicely played by Christopher Jordan Wallace), the young son of a cleaning woman, who functions as (sniffle) the son that selfish, drunken Nick never had.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Nick’s front lawn sit-in continues with timely intrusions by a third lonely person, the attractive newcomer across the street (Rebecca Hall), and Nick’s former AA sponsor, a local police detective (Michael Peña). Just in case we’re worried that Nick isn’t going to come out of all this smelling like a rose, he looks up a former high school girlfriend played by Laura Dern — she’s available and smiley. But first there’s Nick’s chemical dependency and self-pity to deal with. That takes about a half hour. The best that can be said about Everything Must Go is that it’s slightly less nauseating than The Beaver.