Toronto Review: Dan Rush's Indie Drama 'Everything Must Go'
by Alex Billington
September 13, 2010
Its been a few days and I can already tell you this is one of those films that will stick with me. I first heard about Dan Rush's Everything Must Go when I noticed it was one of the most highly rated scripts floating around, one that everyone seems to love. Before I knew it, the film had already been shot with Will Ferrell starring in the lead, and now its making its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. The first thing to note about this indie movie is that it's not really a comedy. Sure, it has Will Ferrell starring in it, but it's actually a very low key, very smart indie drama. And although it's not perfect, I personally really enjoyed it.
The basic (depressing) concept of Everything Must Go is that Ferrell one day returns home after being fired from his job to find his lawn full of his belongs: a recliner, mini-fridge, all of his clothes, a stuffed fox, and everything else you can imagine. His wife, who we never actually see throughout the entire film, has kicked him out because of a recent incident where he got drunk and slept with a younger colleague on a business trip. He's so fed up with life that he decides to just stay right there on the lawn and he's given a week to sell everything off in a yard sale before being thrown in jail. It may not sound great in writing, but the script is brilliant, it truly lives up to all the fantastic things I've heard about it, so that definitely isn't a weak point.
As much as I love the script, the big problem with the film is that it doesn't have any style or tone. I hate to say it, but I think that's because Rush is a first-time filmmaker directing his own script and that wasn't a good idea. It needed a much stronger tone, as it felt like all Rush did is take the script in its basic form and put it on screen, without adding anything to make it "pop", so to say. If they would've put this in the hands of someone like Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer), it would've been immensely better, but that's not to say it's bad, it just felt bland in spots and a little too low key, especially when it had the potential to be amazing.
Ferrell does a fairly good job in a much more dramatic role, occasionally delivering a great comedic line or two, but he's not completely up to Stranger Than Fiction levels. The supporting cast also includes Rebecca Hall (who I'm in love with) and Michael Peña, both of whom seemed like they left something to be desired, again suffering from the lack of better direction. Despite these issues, it's not hard to look past the tedious direction and just enjoy Everything Must Go for the great indie that is. It's probably one of the most low key films I've seen here (and therefore one you might not hear much about) but I'm looking forward to revisiting it again and will be happy to add it to my DVD collection, just because it does border on being an indie gem.
If you're a screenwriter or screenwriting admirer, Everything Must Go is a must see for the writing. There's a lot to admire about the script and it's easy to enjoy it as a brilliant bit of storytelling. It's honestly hard to criticize this so much because it's a film that will stick with me well beyond the festival, but at the same time it could've been so much better than it was, and it sadly fell flat. It's sincere at times and quite reflective, which is again thanks to the script. If only more films had writing this great, we wouldn't ever have to worry about style ruling over substance, but this is one case where style and tone actually needed more of a focus.
Alex's Toronto Rating: 7.5 out of 10