Will Ferrell is most known for his zany comedies like Anchorman, Talledega Nights, and Old School. But beneath that funnyman exterior is a very effective dramatic actor. His latest movie, Everything Must Go, is more Stranger Than Fiction than it is Blades of Glory. Written and directed by debutante Dan Rush, Everything Must Go stars Ferrell, Rebecca Hall (The Town, Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Michael Pena (Observe and Report, The Lincoln Lawyer) and newcomer Christopher Jordan Wallace. That it gained entry into the notoriously straight-laced Toronto International Film Festival last year should be plenty indication that this is not your typical Will Ferrell fare.

The story tells of recovering alcoholic Nick Halsey (Ferrell), who loses his job after a relapse and comes home to find his wife gone, and him locked out of his house with all his possessions on the front lawn. So he decides to just live on his lawn, drinking beer and cooking on a rotisserie. His sponsor, Frank (Pena), informs him that legally he can only stay on his lawn if he holds a yard sale. So he hires local kid Kenny (Wallace) as his assistant, befriending his new pregnant neighbor Samantha (Hall) who is awaiting her husband to move down and join her from New York.

While the premise sounds a little outlandish, it actually makes for a compelling drama about being lost in your own little world. Nick’s life spirals out of control due to his alcoholism and he can longer hide behind his good job and (seemingly) happy marriage. All of his baggage is literally (and metaphorically!) spread all over the place and he has to clean it up in order to survive himself.

Ferrell is perfectly cast as the down-on-his-luck Nick. Shades of his confidence, charisma and charm flash throughout, and we can sort of see the man he was before his problems became so colossal. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that Nick’s present might even be a possible future for some of Ferrell’s old comedic characters. Nick is basically a man who thought he had it all put together until one day he realized he didn’t. It is an interesting character for Ferrell and one that certainly illustrates how he might continue to challenge himself dramatically in the way of his longtime cohort John C. Reilly.

The supporting cast members are all uniformly excellent. Hall and Wallace especially are charming and affecting as the Nick’s support circle. Pena is good as the friend who may hold some secrets of his own. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park, Inland Empire) makes a nice cameo as Nick’s old classmate. Everything Must Go is a quiet little drama with an astonishing central performance from Will Ferrell, and a welcome change of pace from the typical egocentric buffoon on which he built his brand.

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