Sunday, July 03, 2011

Will Farrell's Latest

Saw "Everything Must Go" this afternoon at the Nickelodeon, and quite liked it. Very solid movie, especially in light of it's source material.

It was based on a very short Raymond Carver story titled "Why Don't You Dance?", which I read just before the movie. Pretty good story but, being Carver, very minimal. It's about a guy, apparently an alcoholic, who moves all his stuff out on to his front lawn, for no other apparent reason than that it seems like a good idea. He keeps up a steady drunk, and gradually a young couple stops by and figures he's holding a yard sale. They dicker with him for some furniture, mainly a bed. They listen to his records and dance. He watches, thinking possibly of their future - I say possibly because suggestiveness is always Carver's stock in trade. The young couple think of how they'll always remember this day.

That's about it. It's only six pages.

The movie basically just borrowed the situation. It had to invent a much bigger plot, in which an alcoholic named Nick (Farrell) loses his cushy job and comes to see that his wife has moved all his stuff out on the lawn, changed the locks, cancelled his credit cards, and left. He has no money and no job and, with the help of a local black kid, starts selling his possessions, which has the therapeutic effect of freeing him to start over. He finds moral support from a new neighbor across the street, a pregnant young photographer whose husband hasn't arrived yet - and who sees her own possible future reflected in Nick's.

The movie is explicit where the story is subtle, but that's not a criticism. The story showed the effects of alcoholism; the movie, in its comedy-drama way, explored the whys and wherefores, and did it pretty well. The punchlines had bite; it angled a little too much for the hopeful happy ending, it lacked brutal realism, perhaps - and it handicapped the situation by giving Nick the kind of successful past that assures the viewer he won't be destitute. Despite that, it didn't feel shallow either.

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