*Yes, TIFF is long past, but I'm lazy and procrastinaty. Ergo, you get these as I write 'em.
We often see the biggest comedic movie stars turn to drama. Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, Adam Sandler, etc.. Sometimes this is because they want to break away from the schtick that made them famous before it gets old. Usually its because they want some critical acclaim for their abilities as an actor instead of just a wacky guy.
Will Ferrell is no different. He's carved a big path of funny, but long ago it began feeling like more of the same. I would refer to the latest comedy as "Will Ferrell movie 20xx". I'd still go see them, and I'd still laugh, but they weren't exactly deep explorations of the human psyche, or anything new.
Then I saw Stranger than Fiction, a strange little comedy where he played, for all intents and purposes, the straight man. He was in a ridiculous situation, but was just a guy trying to deal with it. It's a great movie that shows how his talents can be harnessed in something other than his normal routine.
Then he went back to Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, and the like. I still laughed, but now anticipated his next "serious" role.
Everything Must Go falls into that category. Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, a career salesman who starts off the movie having a very bad day. Canned from his job, he comes home to find that his wife has left him and locked him out of the house, along with all his stuff. It doesn't really get better from there. At first.
With no job, no place to go, and no capability to deal with it, Nick restarts his drinking problem, ending yet another trip on the wagon. He plops himself into his chair on his lawn and decides that his front yard isn't such a bad place for a living room. Granted, this has the small problem of being illegal, a situation rectified with a local bylaw allowing yard sales to last 5 days.
What comes next is the story of an alcoholic in a crappy situation trying to sort out his life. As he struggles with denial and avoidance, the realities of his suburban life begin to make themselves known. Secrets, stories, and characters start to come forth, each of them waking Nick up just a little bit more, and helping him come to terms with where he is, and how he got there. The "yard sale" rapidly becomes an obvious metaphor for his emotional burdens.
In the bigger picture, this is a good move for Ferrell. It once again makes him a relatable, "real" character and puts him in an unique situation. But instead of a voice in his head and his life being controlled by a writer, he's in a place that one can actually believe exists. It's another step out of his safety zone and into more grown-up roles.
There's plenty of comedy in here, but don't expect a ridiculous moustache and ignorant rantings. Nick Halsey's just a guy trying do deal. As a movie, it won't make it on too many people's radar - it's just a bit too slow, a bit too scattered, and again, not the typical Ferrell vehicle, which will confuse and disappoint some of his fans. Personally, I enjoyed it, but probably more for some of the individual performances than the whole.