Saturday, May 28, 2011
Everything Must Go
It's no secret that I'm a Raymond Carver fan. I love his poetry and stories, particularly the line in "Jean's TV" where he "conducts the shabby business of his life" on her telephone. In "Everything Must Go" based on Carver's story, "Why Don't You Dance?", Will Ferrell morphs into the typical Carver character, Nick, a man on the brink of loss, despair, alcoholism, and endless pools of regret. Ferrell's performance is a formidable one of restraint. One can hardly believe this is the same man who starred in "Elf." We meet Nick as he's losing his job, relapsing into a life of booze, and returning to a house where his wife has thrown all his stuff on the lawn, changed the locks, and left a note which we see in part (ie, You make me sick.) He realizes his credit cards and bank account has been frozen and so he sits on his lawn and drinks beer after beer, looking at his stuff (Best touch for Carver fans -- Nick pulls out an old viewfinder which falls apart in his hands). Without giving away too much of the plot, Nick begins to have a yard sale, enlisting the help of a young African-American boy named Kenny whose mother is taking care of an elderly woman down the street while Kenny rides his bike around the neighborhood in endless circles. Across the street, a pregnant woman moves into the house sans her husband and also provides a sounding board for Nick as he navigates the shabby business of his life.
There's nothing like seeing all your stuff in front of your house to make it look worthless. Nick refuses to part with much of it for a while until he gets into the spirit of things and decides he doesn't need it. The movie's transformations are subtle, much like Carver himself, the kindnesses not maudlin. What happens to Nick finds voice through the objects of the physical world and the actions of others. When Kenny reads Nick's book about making things easy to buy, he labels all of Nick's belongings with price tags that have titles that could easily come out of a Carver story, my favorite being the lamp -- Light Up Your Life, Don't Sit Around In the Dark. By the end, Nick has crawled out into a light of sorts with painful revelations about his wife, his drinking, and his future. At one point he tells the neighbor she needs to put up curtains so she can't see her future. But ultimately he's forced to see his and it doesn't look so good or bad. As AA advises, he's taking it one day at a time, the business of his life becomes less shabby, and we realize that maybe everything isn't lost and even though he doesn't dance, he becomes more himself, the highest goal there is.