Everything Must Go

I’m not a huge fan of independent film.  The stories they tend to tell are all of a piece.  For example, if a man loses his job, and he’s living on his front lawn with all his stuff in front of the house he’s been locked out of because his wife has kicked him out, what do you think is going to happen?  Is he going to go find a hotel room and regroup?  Is he going to be jailed for vagrancy?  Or is he going to befriend a precocious semi-parentless black child, flirt with the pregnant girl across the street, and slowly learn the value of letting go of his past (metaphorically, of course, by selling all his stuff)?

If you guessed the third, congratulations.  You understand independent film.

Now, this film stars Will Ferrell, who’s a pretty good actor, and he has an affable quality that makes watching him spiral slowly into a mire of alcoholic depression a little funny and not really dangerous.  The film never makes anything too difficult, even though its supposed to be terrible for him.  He has a friend on the police force, so he gets to live on his lawn for a few days without repercussions.  The black kid’s mom never confronts him for his strange (though sweetly fatherly) relationship with her kid.  He even tracks down an old high school crush, and while it’s pretty cringy stuff, him looking at her with longing that stretches back two decades, the gal (played by Laura Dern) makes it clear she still likes the guy, and tells him to give her a call when his life is put back together.  For me, the most interesting angle is the difficulty of getting on with your life when all modern conveniences (credit, electricity, car, home) are stripped away.  But even that was handled with kid gloves.

The quality of Ferrell’s performance puts this on a level above your average art-house/film-festival fare, but it’s still nothing too interesting.


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