A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this moving drama, based on a short story by Raymond Carver, is far from the usual broad comedies that star Will Ferrell is known for. Though inflected with humor, it’s a serious and sobering (no pun intended) movie about a man slipping over the brink of life -- giving in to his alcoholism and losing his marriage and all his belongings. There’s some swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k"), a few brief sexually charged scenes (with partial nudity and kink), and loads and loads of drinking (the lead character is an alcoholic, after all).
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What's the story?
With his job wrestled away from him, his wife finally fed up, and his belongings tossed into their front yard, is Nick Porter (Will Ferrell) finally hitting bottom? And, if so, what will he do? As always, Nick turns to drink, buying cases of beer and artfully arranging, as best he can, his belongings on the lawn as if it were his new abode. But when he meets a new neighbor (Rebecca Hall) with surprising insight into and understanding of his misery, reconnects with a high school friend (Laura Dern) who remembers him differently, and befriends a young boy (Christopher Jordan Wallace) who inexplicably has faith in him, Nick is confronted with a question: Who am I, and what do I do next?
Is it any good?
As lightly and expertly told as the original Raymond Carver short story on which it’s based, EVERYTHING MUST GO is a fantastic, unusual meditation on addiction and self-determination. Gone are the sappy, music-swelled moments and the sweeping epiphanies. What’s left is an intelligent, compassionate, and (we suspect) much more realistic, much messier arc of a man who's in the grips of alcoholism and is unsure of how to get out from under it -- or whether he even can.
Kudos to director Dan Rush, who knows exactly when to push and when to hold back. The supporting actors, especially Hall and Wallace (who, incidentally, is Biggie Smalls’ son) are subtly effective, as is Michael Pena as Nick’s less-than-saintly AA sponsor. But the movie is Ferrell’s. His Nick isn’t a loud, soppy, blustery drunk, and more power to him. Nick is broken to bits, held together by a hair and caseloads of Pabst Blue Ribbon, with a thread of connection to a wisp of his once-righteous self. And the stuff! Seeing all of Nick’s worldly possessions on that lawn is reminder to us all: Do any of these things, our things, really matter? If not, what does?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie presents addiction. Is there any glamour here? What are the consequences of Nick's drinking?
What can viewers learn from Nick’s predicament and his response to it?
Why do you think Ferrell would choose to make a movie like this? Do you think he's trying to appeal to his usual fan base?
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